One of the best things about having older children is that they're able to contribute more significantly around the house, especially when it comes to doing chores. While younger children are often tasked with doing lighter chores such as making their beds, cleaning their bathroom and keeping their rooms clean, when children start to get a bit older they can take on more responsibility. One of those responsibilities is cutting the grass. Having a child old enough to cut the grass is awesome because it's one less chore mom or dad will need to do on their weekends, but it's also a big responsibility and one that you want to ensure your child is ready for.
Sure, it's great to be able to pass the torch on to your child and let them assume the responsibility for the lawn maintenance, but lawn mowers can be dangerous if not used properly. More than 9000 children visit the hospital each year with lawn mower-related injuries so it's important parents know how to keep their children safe when using or being around lawn mowers. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that 800 children are run over by lawnmowers every year, with 600 requiring amputation as a result of these accidents. Eighty percent of children who experience lawn mower accidents are boys, with the ages of 3 and 16 being the two most common ages of injury.
While there are no hard and fast rules about what age a child should be before they start cutting the grass, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does have some recommendations they suggest parents and adults follow. If you have a standard push mower they recommend a child be at least 12-years-old before being allowed to operate it. If you have a ride on lawn mower the AAP suggests that children be at least 16-years-old before using. These are guidelines for parents to follow and parents know their children the best. Make sure your child is mature enough to handle operating a lawn mower before teaching them how and letting them use it on their own.
Children need to know that they should never operate a lawn mower — push or ride on — in open toe shoes. Sandals, slides or anything that doesn't fully cover their feet can result in an injury. Children (and adults) should always wear closed-toe shoes while using a lawnmower. Michigan Health also suggests wearing long pants to provide protection for the legs as well as ear and eye protection. Headphones can protect against the loud noise of the engine, especially if you have a large property that will take a long time to mow, and eye protection will help guard against any debris that may be kicked up by the lawn mower blades.
Prepare The Area
Many kids may be tempted to simply start up the lawn mower and begin cutting the grass without first preparing the lawn, but it's important they realize that preparation is key. A quick check of the lawn to ensure there no large rocks or sticks or toys are laying in the grass is necessary because these objects can be thrown by the mower blades. This is why it's also important that younger children not be playing in the yard while it's being mowed. Children under five years old should also be kept indoors until the mowing is complete.
Always Forward, Never Backward
Experts suggest that when using a lawn mower you only push the mower in a forward motion, and never backward. If you must pull the mower backward exercise extreme caution. If you have to mow a yard that is on a slope it should be mowed side to side and never up and down. The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh warns that a lawn mower being pushed up a slope could easily slide backward causing injury.
Sometimes objects like rocks, sticks or even toys will get caught in your lawn mower blade and sometimes it will just get clogged with grass. It's important that anyone using a lawn mower turn it off and allow it to completely cool before attempting to dislodge anything. The same goes if your child needs to cross a gravel road or path or any other similar area. Children should ask an adult to help if something gets clogged or dislodged in the blades instead of attempting to remove it themselves. Many experts also suggest keeping hands far away from the blades, even if the lawn mower is off. Use a tool or stick or something similar to remove any stuck items or clogs instead of putting hands near the blades.
We've already told you that when you or your child is mowing the lawn there should be no other children around. Kids shouldn't be allowed to play outside near where a lawn mower is operating as it can kick up rocks and debris that could cause injury. Children should never be allowed to walk alongside a lawn mower or hold on to it as you or another child is using it as well. Ride on mowers are also only meant for one person. Your teen should never let another person on the mower while they're operating it in the name of safety.
Not all lawn mowers are the same so it's important you sit with your tween or teen and go over the user manual completely before tasking them with this responsibility. Teaching your child how to properly and safely use a lawn mower will not only allow you to enjoy a summer full of someone else cutting the grass but will ensure your child is safe while doing it.