Protecting your Child in the Garden

by ParentalChoice
in safety, Parenting, Holidays, Family, children's safety, Children
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New Safe and Sound Logo 2010Written by Roma Felstein from Safe and Sound (


When I was young we didn’t have a garden. We lived in a terraced house in Leicester and we would play out all day during the summer holidays, popping in and out of each other’s homes, having lunch at whichever mother was at home to feed us and sometimes not arriving home until dusk. Our parents weren’t anxious because it was the norm and if anything was wrong they would have heard about it soon enough.


Things have changed now, parents are more wary, more protective, and more safety conscious.  But there is a happy medium that allows our children the freedom to explore and grow and yet remain safe and sound.


Accident prevention is not about restricting children or wrapping them up in cotton wool, instead it is about creating safer environments, both in the home and elsewhere, to enable children to thrive and lead a healthy active life.

Children in a garden.
Children in a garden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is especially true with hopefully the long summer holidays ahead of us.!! We all want our children to be able to spend as much time outside in the park or garden as possible and it is up to us to ensure that the environment in which they are playing is safe.  

Children are fascinated by water. Mine spent hours playing with the tap in the garden, endlessly filling and emptying plastic containers. But it is imperative that young children are supervised at all times around water and if you have a pond or water feature in your garden it may be sensible to remove it until the children are older.

It’s scary to realize that children can drown in even the shallowest of water. From a young child’s perspective, a 50 cm deep pond is equivalent to an adult falling into 180 cm of water as the toddler is unable to climb out of the water and in some cases if they fall face down into a bucket or pond they cannot turn themselves over.   It is not usually until the age of four or five that children begin to understand the concept of danger, and begin to heed warnings given to them.  

Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children.

So check the garden regularly. Containers holding rainwater should be emptied or sealed to stop children getting into them. Turn paddling pools upside down after use.  Fill in ponds, especially if you have children under 6 – they can be used as sand pits instead. If you do have a pond or swimming pool in the garden visit or  for details of how to make them safe.

Store gardening equipment and liquids out of children’s reach and check that the types of plants you are growing are not poisonous to children. Poisoning by plants is very uncommon in the UK. Some garden plants present a hazard, but the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is generally low. Nevertheless, it would help to teach children:


  • if it is not a food plant do not eat it.
  • do not to play with or eat growing plants
  • wear gloves when gardening to keep skin covered
  • check plants labels for toxicity symbols and warnings


For more information on potentially harmful garden plants see


First Aid Advice

Poisonous Plants


If you suspect your child has eaten something poisonous in the garden:


  • seek medical advice immediately from a hospital Accident & Emergency department. 
  • take a sample of the plant with you.
  • do not panic and DO NOT try to make the child sick.



A child who drowns doesn’t usually breathe in large amounts of water. The child will usually swallow large amounts of water, which might then be vomited as they are rescued or resuscitation takes place.

Do not put yourself at risk  – you cannot help your child if you become a victim

If possible keep the child horizontal during rescue

Check airway and breathing. Resuscitate if necessary

Dial 999/112 for emergency help

ALWAYS call 999/112 for emergency help, even if the child appears to recover. Just a tiny amount of water in the lungs can cause a delayed reaction of sudden, severe difficulty in breathing. This is called ‘secondary drowning’.

If a child has inhaled (aspirated) even a small amount of water (as little as 2.5-30mls), it can trigger a reaction in the lungs which can be fatal, even 24hrs after the initial incident!

If enough water is inhaled then it can wash away the chemical (surfactant) which keeps part of the lungs (alveoli) open.  Without this surfactant, the lungs begin to collapse.  Then the body’s own fluids as well as those swallowed/inhaled are able to seep into the lungs.  This prevents oxygen and carbon dioxide from being exchanged and effectively causes the patient to drown.  This can occur much later than the initial incident and without any more fluid being inhaled.

This is called dry drowning or secondary drowning.

The symptoms include:-

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pain when breathing (especially when taking deep breaths)
  • Coughing
  • Possible wheezing




The above is not a substitute for professional first aid training. For details of paediatric first aid courses in your area please call Safe and Sound on 0208  445 8998 or go to 

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