Garden safety and young children

Garden safety and young children isn’t about ruining all the fun! It’s to raise awareness so we can all enjoy our outdoor spaces free of accidents. According to Rospa about 300,000 people are hurt in their gardens each year seriously enough to go to hospital and 110,000 of them are children.

Poisonous plants, weed killer, ponds, gardening equipment, trampolines, toys, barbecues who knew that gardens had so many hazards we need to be aware of?


As well as watching out for berries, some plants commonly found in gardens are poisonous for people. Do you know which they are? Most of these will not cause serious harm. Ingestion typically results in an upset stomachs or a little discomfort. However, a small number of common garden plants are more toxic and could cause severe poisoning. In their blog 7 Poisonous Plants to Avoid in Child Friendly Garden, Neograss list and provide information on plants that should either be avoided, or around which children should be supervised in gardens used by them.

Garden Safety and Young Children - Some common garden plants are poisonous. Do you know which they are?
Garden Safety and Young Children – Some common garden plants are poisonous. Do you know which they are?
These include:
  • Bluebells – the plant or bulb if ingested can cause harm and sickness due to the presence of toxic glycosides. It is also believed that the sap can cause skin irritation.
  • Hydrangeas – rarely deadly, ingesting any part of a hydrangea can lead to stomach pain, nausea, heavy breathing, diarrhoea and lethargy. In more severe cases require eating large quantities of the plant! Dermatitis can also affect some people after exposure.
  • Foxgloves – ingesting foxgloves can be potentially fatal and antidotes are required to prevent life-threatening cases. They contain toxins in the form of cardiac glycosides. These are naturally occurring poisons that affect the heart. Relatively low quantities of the toxin can be fatal.
  • Poison Ivy – generally this only causes skin irritations. It can cause a painful, itchy and blistery rash after making contact with the skin. However, this plant is commonly found in North America and it’s very, very rare to come across it in the UK.
  • Lily of the Valley – is highly toxic. Ingesting small amounts of this attractive plant can lead to abdominal pain, vomiting, reduced heart rate, drowsiness and skin rashes. Fatality can result from consuming just two leaves of this plant. Definitely one to avoid in a child-friendly garden.
  • Daphne – All species of this shrub can be harmful to humans. The berries are the most poisonous part, although all parts of this plant are poisonous. The plant can also cause skin irritation. If ingested, these sensations are intensified on contact with the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and stomach, causing severe discomfort. It is rarely fatal but there have been cases.
  • Daffodils – Poisoning isn’t fatal but ingesting can lead to vomiting, upset stomach and dehydration. In more severe cases, convulsions and heart irregularities may occur.


Trampolines are a popular garden toy. Hospital A&E departments are seeing an increasing number of injuries as their popularity rises. The key piece of advice is – take turns, one at a time. 60% of injuries occur when more than one person is on the trampoline. The person weighing less is five times more likely to be injured.

Rospa have an excellent information page on keys safety points, as well as advice on buying, checking it, keeping it safe and rules for use.

Garden Safety and Young Children – Trampolines
If you’re getting a trampoline Rospa advice is to:
  • Choose a model with safety pads, and check that the pads cover the springs, hooks and frame. The colour of the pads should contrast with the frame.
  • Consider models with safety netting as part of the design, or buy this at the same time. The safety netting should prevent the bouncers from hitting rigid component like springs or the frame. They should also prevent bouncing off the trampoline.
  • New trampolines should meet the European Standard EN71-14:2014 ‘Safety of toys – Trampolines for domestic use’.
Rospa also advise
  • placing the trampoline on energy absorbing ground, such as a soft and springy lawn, or bark wood chip, sand or other cushioning material.
  • Never placing the trampoline on hard surfaces such as concrete, tarmac or hard packed mud without absorbent safety matting
  • ensuring trampolines are tied down before use.
  • checking the padding and nets are in place and that the spring and fixed-metal parts are covered.
  • packing down the trampoline on windy days and in winter
  • removing ladders (if they have them) to limit unsupervised access by smaller children, when the trampoline is not in use.
Garden Safety and Young Children - Rospa is a great source of advice on garden toys such as swings, slides, climbing frames, seesaws and roundabouts
Garden Safety and Young Children – Rospa is a great source of advice on garden toys such as swings, slides, climbing frames, seesaws and roundabouts

Climbing frames, slides and swings etc

Rospa is a great source of advice for this too with all information available on their website. They have specific information and advice there for swings, slides, climbing frames, seesaws, roundabouts and combination units. Their general advice is to:

  • Check for a CE or GS mark on the equipment which indicates a degree of quality
  • Make sure full installation, maintenance and operating instructions included
  • See what the indication of recommended age or use and durability is
  • Make sure paint used non-toxic and low lead
  • Check all tube ends capped
  • Make sure there are no protruding bolts or parts
  • Make sure items are capable of being secured to the ground securely unless otherwise designated
  • Ensure hand grips are less than 40mm
  • Check that information is given on appropriate surfaces on which the equipment can be used

Gardening tools and machinery

Lock garden tools away in a shed or other secure area, and never leave electrical equipment plugged in when not in use.


Chemicals used in gardens or stored in garden sheds, garages or anywhere else such as weed killer, fertiliser and antifreeze should always be kept out of reach of young children. It also always keep chemicals in their original containers so it is always known what they are. This prevents them being accidently ingested or misused. There are instances of this happening when they’ve been transferred into jars or drinks bottles.

NHS figures show that 70 children under five years old are admitted to UK hospitals with suspected accidental poisoning daily. Many household chemicals have a substance called denatonium benzoate added to them – the brand name for this is Bitrex. Bitrex tastes so bitter that children spit it out instead of swallowing it. The substance is completely harmless and is in the Guinness World Records as the bitterest substance known to man. Drop a thimble-full of Bitrex into an Olympic swimming pool and you can detect the bitterness in those two and a half million litres of water. Find out what brands use Bitrex on their website.


Babies and toddlers can drown in as little as 5cm (2”) of water. Supervision around ponds, paddling pools is essential.


Envii offer fantastic comprehensive advice and ideas on how to make your pond child safe. This includes pros and cons to aesthetics, safety and wildlife. Solutions include:

  • Fencing – temporary or permanent over a metre high
  • Mesh or grill covers able to take a child’s weight
  • Consider using bog plants as natural ornaments. Ornaments can attract children as they might think they are toys. Bog plants create a barrier against the most dangerous parts of the pond, while simultaneously adding a decorative element
  • Making sure your pond water is clear and that you’re using chemical-free and natural pond care products if you are supervising your children and allowing them to dip their fingers in!
Garden Safety and Young Children - Small children can drown in just a few centimetres of water
Garden Safety and Young Children – Small children can drown in just a few centimetres of water
Paddling pools

The Royal Life Saving Society offer great advice on water safety for these. Their advice includes:

  • Empty paddling pools, containers, buckets and watering cans, as soon as they have been used
  • Always turn paddling pools and containers upside down once empty, so they do not collect water
  • Always turn hosepipes off at the tap, so children cannot fill paddling pools or anything else themselves

Hoses and attachments

Legionella is a naturally occurring bacteria in water causing Legionnaires disease. You can get Legionnaires’ disease if you breathe in tiny droplets of water containing bacteria that causes the infection. This bacteria is known to build up in taps, hoses and hose heads that have not been for a long time. Instances of contracting Legionnaires disease this way are rare but they can happen (Yep! Here’s a Daily Mail article where that very thing happened). Flushing your outside taps, hoses and fixtures through for a couple of minutes before use if you’ve not used them for at least three weeks is highly recommended. Make you your nose and mouth are covered or you look away to prevent ingesting the spray.

Garden Safety and Young Children – Barbecues stay very hot a long time after we’ve finished cooking on them


We do love a barbecue but remember barbecue’s stay hot enough to cause serious burns for a long time after they’ve been used. If you’ve finished using yours for the day but the kids are still playing outside make sure they can’t access it to touch it, knock it over or play with it!

All barbecues also produce carbon monoxide. This is fine outdoors, but is deadly poisonous in an enclosed space. Make sure they are left outside – never ever take a lit or smouldering one inside a house, tent, caravan, or boat!

Post by Rosecroft Health and Safety

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