Raising kids on the farm is many people’s idea of the American dream. Folks love to hear about children showing sheep and cows at 4-H fairs, and seeing photos of kids chasing chickens and digging in the garden.
Sadly, you also often hear about accidents on the farm involving children. Farms are wonderful places for kids to grow up, learn responsibility and work ethic, but they can also at times be dangerous. Teaching your children a solid foundation about how things work on a farm, and making it a point to keep an eye on them, can help keep them safe from accidents.
Know Where They Are
One of the biggest steps in keeping children safe on the farm is to know where they are so that you can keep them out of potentially hazardous areas.
Train them to let you know where they are going, and try to keep small children from wandering without an adult to keep them safe. As children get older and more knowledgeable, they will gain more independence and freedom on the farm, but it is still a good practice for them to inform you of where they will be.
One of the best ways to know where your children are is to simply take them with you when you are out and about working on the farm – not only can you keep an eye on them, but you can give them countless opportunities to learn from you.
Whether it involves farming or anything else in life, James Boosey of Blue Heron Farm in Marshfield, Mo., says that the main part of teaching your children is “allowing them access to everything you do.”
James and his wife, Jennie, raise their two boys, Dylan, 7, and Jake, 5, on 50 rolling acres. “They’re always involved,” James said.
Be Aware of Hazards
Not only should you be aware of where your kids are, you should also be aware of the hazards on your farm.
According to the National Safety Council, producers should inspect their farm on a regular basis for hazards that can injure children wandering on your farm. Correct obvious hazards immediately.
Taking an extra few steps to secure your equipment is one way to prevent a hazardous situation.
The council also advised that farmers always turn off equipment, lower hydraulics and remove keys before leaving equipment unattended.
Sometimes, a hazardous situation may come up that might not be the best time for a teachable moment.
Build a Good Foundation
The key to building a good foundation to keep your kids safe both on and off the farm is common sense. Setting a wise example encourages children to follow suite.
“Set boundaries,” Boosey advised. “Show them why they shouldn’t do certain things.”
While boundaries are important for safe and successful learning, it is also important to trust them and provide patience and a little freedom as you teach them processes and responsibilities. Dylan and Jake help their parents collect wood and gather eggs, and are responsible to take care of their own tools and toys.
The National Safety Council recommends that children who are physically able to be involved in farm work be assigned age-appropriate tasks and continually trained to perform them.