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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Teaching Kids to Be Safe on the Farm

Growing up on a farm is an experience that shaped who I am, and I am so grateful to be able to raise my own children on a farm. A farm is a wonderland for children and their imaginations. They learn so much – not just about animals and crops, but also about patience and perseverance. As a parent, I’m responsible for making sure that the wonderland is safe for my children to explore. 

My wife did not grow up on a farm so she doesn’t have the familiarity and comfort level around farm equipment that I do – which has proven to be beneficial. For instance, there are things I take for granted as safe because I’ve done them my whole life, and my wife is able to point out that they’re unsafe for our children. I’ll never forget the look on my wife’s face when she found me driving the forklift with our 2-year-old son on my lap. I wasn't doing anything dangerous, but boy, did I get an earful from my wife that night on kid safety.

Keeping your children safe on a farm requires much more thought and effort than in a nonfarm home. Depending on the size and function of your farm, you may need to tend to safety in regard to animals, equipment, chemicals and grain.  Read on to find out how to teach your kids about safety on the farm.

Animal Safety

Children need to know how to safely approach and handle animals. Livestock like cows and horses see differently because of the placement of their eyes. They have an almost 360 degree field of vision, with the exception of blind spots directly in front and directly behind them. When approaching an animal with this kind of vision, it is always best to approach from the side, well within the animal’s field of vision. It is also a good idea to speak calmly to the animal as you approach to minimize surprise.

When moving or handling animals, teach your child to keep a safe distance so feet don’t get caught under hooves. Never stand behind an animal within kicking range and don’t handfeed animals, even friendly ones, because accidental bites do occur. Never put yourself between a solid object and the animal so as to avoid getting crushed or pinned. 

Equipment Safety

Farm equipment poses a host of hazards for children and adults. Make sure your children know that tractors and other pieces of equipment are not toys and they should not play on or near them. Only adults with proper training should be operating equipment, and when they do, children should be kept at a safe distance. Extra passengers on farm equipment is never a good idea because it can compromise the driver’s ability to operate the equipment correctly. 

If your child is old enough to operate equipment, make sure they are properly trained and follow all safety precautions. Children ages 10 to 14 have the highest rate of injury on farm equipment, often because they are performing adult tasks on adult equipment.

Chemical Safety

Chemicals may not the be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about farms, but almost all of them have some form of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and veterinary medication on-site. Make sure all hazardous substances are stored properly, preferably in a childproof manner or locked away where children can’t access them.

If an accident were to occur with chemicals, have information readily available that can tell you how to treat the chemical injury. Not all chemicals are treated the same, so don’t assume that soap and water will be sufficient. If you child does need to handle chemicals, provide them with the proper protective equipment such as gloves and glasses.

Grain Safety

Large amounts of stored grain can pose a suffocation hazard. One-third of all grain-related injuries occur with children. Flowing grain and stored grain both have risks. When working with grain, keep your children at a safe distance. Always keep access to stored grain locked.

Growing up on a farm is one of the best opportunities we can give our children. They can learn and grow in unique ways. As parents, we must protect our children from farm hazards to ensure they have long and happy lives, and perhaps even raise their own children on a farm.

James White is a home improvement blogger and construction worker. His writing has appeared in many publications, including First Home News, Building Blok, and AmeriFirst. James advocates for sustainable building and living. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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