If you’ve been a reader for long, you know I absolutely love living here on Grouse Creek Farm! The whole family benefits from fresh air, we get plenty of interaction with nature, and there’s always something fun to do. But, living out here does have some risks for young kids. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about keeping toddlers safe on the farm.
1. Respect the Animals
Farm animals are animals. Even if they’re tame and used to being around people, they are still animals that can act unpredictably at times.
This is especially true when loud noises and quick movements are involved. Anyone else have a quick, loud toddler? Yeah, me too! That’s why we give farm animals a wide berth.
Teach your young kids to respect animals. Model calm behavior and how to stay quiet around them. Let them enjoy the animal’s beauty from a distance unless an adult is there to help.
Keep Animals Secure
Make sure that you keep your animals secure, especially your bulls and other large animals that could easily run over a small child in search of greener grasses.
If your animals get out, be sure your kids are somewhere safe before trying to corral them back in.
Not all of our animals are contained. We have our chickens free-ranging, and have taught our kids how to let the chickens be chickens instead of trying to always pick them up. We’ve also worked on our flock’s makeup to quickly get rid of any roosters that show aggression towards people. But, our cows are either in the pasture or their winter enclosures. That way they are separated from the kids.
2.Enlist Your Child’s Help
Kids who are engaged are less likely to find themselves in unsafe situations. Encourage your children to help around the farm.
My toddlers love feeding the rabbits and carrying eggs into the house. Yes we might get some spilled grain or broken eggs, but they’re learning to work and harness their energy. They feel valued and appreciated.
They can also help with tasks that aren’t animal related. Let them rake leaves in the fall, pull some weeds in the garden, and walk fences to look for downed areas.
You’ll be especially appreciative of their help when they get older and can tackle even more! Teach them and encourage them when they’re young.
3. Mark Your Electric Fences
Do you have electrical fence on your farm? We do too. They can be a danger to kids, so be sure to mark them appropriately. We use tie on flagging that’s bright pink.
It’s easily seen. It indicates danger.
Take time to talk to your kids about how the electric fence works. Use age appropriate terms, but let them know that electric fences aren’t for playing around or touching.
4. Teach Hygiene
Germs are everywhere! Around here we have chicken poop, grease, dirt, and an abundance of other germ harboring things.
Kids are going to get dirty. They’re going to touch something gross.
Teach them from a young age to keep their hands clean. Always wash hands before eating anything, and teach your children to do the same.
Don’t fret about the dirt–it happens and might even help your child stay healthier. But, it’s definitely important to teach proper hygiene.
5. Child Out of Your Sight? Check Danger Zones!
There are danger zones on the farm. These range from the road, water tanks, grain silos, and equipment. Know where your most dangerous zones are.
Toddlers are quick and can get away quietly. If you realize your little one is missing, check your danger zones first.
Also on this note, teach your children from a young age to come when they’re called. If you don’t yell loudly, get a dinner bell or something and teach your child to come at that sound. Practice, practice, practice!
6. Establish Safe Zones!
We’ve already talked about danger zones, so let’s look at safe zones. If you’re a farmer, your kids will be out and about with you. So you need to create some safe zones for them.
These areas will let your child explore and learn about risk management. They can develop gross and fine motor skills, and stretch their imagination. But, they can do it without big dangers around.
Make your safe zones fun so your kids don’t mind playing in them. One of ours is our hay barn. Our hay isn’t stacked high enough to cause major damage when jumped off. We keep a thick layer of fallen hay on the ground to provide padding.
There’s also plenty of boards that the kids can use to create forts, make roads out of, or more. The kids love playing together in the barn!
When I’m cleaning pens or moving hay, I know that the kids can stay there and be safe. It’s such a relief to have that space!
Talk About Road Safety
We might live in the middle of nowhere, but our rural dirt road sure gets a lot of traffic. Roads aren’t a place for playing, no matter how rural you are.
Drivers out here usually speed. They know their chances of getting a ticket out here are slim. High speeds and kids aren’t a good combination, so teach your kids to stay out of the road.
Stop, Look, and Listen
Anytime you need to cross the road with your kids, it’s the perfect time to reinforce stop, look, and listen. Out here, listening is our biggest clue that a vehicle is coming.
Practice frequently, and make sure your children have road safety down before they cross independently.
I Love the Farm!
As I said earlier, I love life on the farm. I know there are dangers, but there are dangers everywhere. We can’t get so caught up in worrying about the dangers that we freeze and force our kids to stay inside. Get out and love life together, wherever you are!
Teach your child about your environment, and how to be safe. They’ll take those lessons with them throughout their life, and be better able to take appropriate risks without acting recklessly.
Do you have any other tips for keeping young children safe on the farm?