TEACHING YOUNG CHILDREN | VOL. 5 NO. 5 Download PDF
Organic gardening is a great way to promote children’s learning about and
appreciation for the natural world. However, it’s important to keep safety in mind when gardening with preschoolers. Here are a few safety tips.
Begin with a safe foundation
Locate the garden away from trash collection areas, septic systems, and other sources of contamination.
Contact appropriate utilities before digging to make sure you avoid electric cables, gas lines, and water pipes.
Avoid using certain building materials: treated lumber may contain cyanide, and tires can leach petroleum into the soil.
Use stakes (to support plants) that are taller than children. Short stakes can cause eye injuries.
Remove plants that can cause skin irritations, such as poison ivy and those with poisonous parts.
Use tools wisely
Get child-size gardening tools and teach children how to use them properly. Ensure they are in good condition (for example, wooden handles are free of splinters).
Store tools in a locked shed; put them away after use.
Use proper soil and water
Test soil for toxins such as lead and pesticides. Contact your local county health department or cooperative extension office for information about testing, and maintain testing records.
Make sure all water you use in the garden—for watering plants, washing produce, and washing hands—is drinking water.
Make sure children wear the following:
A wide-brimmed hat and sturdy shoes or rain boots that can get dirty and muddy.
Washable garden gloves to protect them from scratchy stems and leaves. (Wash gloves periodically to remove plant oils that may irritate children’s skin.)
Broad-spectrum sunscreen with a protection factor of at least SPF 30.
Discuss garden safety
Teach children that they should never eat anything from a garden without asking an adult first.
Work with children to create guidelines, such as “Wash hands after working in the garden.” Laminate and post the guidelines near the garden, and discuss them periodically.
Communicate with families
Explain your gardening plans to families; respond to their ideas, questions and concerns, and invite them to join in.
sk families if their children have allergic reactions to any insect bites or plants, fruits, and vegetables. Keep a list, along with treatment options.
National Gardening Association— www.garden.org and www.kidsgardening.org
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Tips for School Gardens— www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Guidance/ foodsafety_schoolgardens.pdf