Children love playing outside in the yard. Whether it’s playing with their jungle gym, playing hide and seek, or just exploring nature, it’s a great way to spend some time outside. However, while many parents focus on baby proofing their home, many overlook the potential risks in the garden.
If you have some garden steps in your backyard these can be particularly hazardous for young children, so what you can you do to make them safe and child-friendly? Let’s explore this topic in more detail.
Explain the risks of running up or down steps
Safety starts with understanding the risks and dangers. Once your toddler is walking fairly securely, show how you should walk up and down the garden steps. Some will pick this up quicker than others, but to speed things up you can demonstrate this inside when you’re going up and down the stairs. Just walk up and down slowly, and use the handrail if there is one available.
My son is almost 2 now and he can walk up and down a set of stairs by himself. However, when he was younger and had only started walking, I showed him so many times that he should go down backwards on his stomach as this is safer. It also meant he couldn’t fall over onto his head. But this only worked for a few indoor steps, not for a whole flight of stairs, and it’s not really appropriate for outside. You can’t really do this on concrete steps as the material is too hard. Wood is also hard and there is also the risk of getting a splinter.
So you really need to reinforce that toddlers and young children should walk up and down a set of garden steps very slowly and carefully. They will get it in the end. While they’re learning, just walk with them and hold their hand. Once they understand, the risks of any injury are greatly reduced.
Add some anti-slip tape
If you want to add something to reduce the risk of slipping on any garden steps, you can always apply some anti-slip tape. It’s usually clear, bright and waterproof and it should adhere to most materials, such as concrete, wood and metal. As a parent this can give you peace of mind as not only does it reduce the risk of someone having a nasty slip on the step, the bright tape provides a visual cue which can naturally make children slow down and walk more carefully.
You may feel you don’t need to purchase this item, but if the steps often get wet, it’s probably worth doing.
Apply a non-slip sealer/paint
For many surfaces, you can apply a non-slip sealer or paint to reduce the risk of slipping or falling over. You can purchase some all round anti-slip paint that can work on wood, metal or concrete surfaces. Once you’ve applied the paint it makes the texture of the surface rougher, by increasing friction and making the steps safer. You can purchase an actual paint if you want something colourful or a stain/clear coat if you want to keep the original look and feel of the steps.
Just make sure you clean the surface thoroughly first, ideally with a power wash before applying the paint and read the instructions carefully so you know how much you need to apply to each step.
Add a handrail
Attaching a handrail is a good strategy as it should make your kids naturally slow down and grab hold of it when they’re walking up or down the steps. For concrete garden steps, you probably want to attach a steel or wooden handrail which will involve some drilling. Just ensure you measure everything correctly. The video below is a good example of how to do things properly.
Improve their visibility
For a low cost option, you can always make the steps more visible to alert kids of their location when they’re approaching them.
Add plant pots to the side of the steps
You can try to make the steps a little narrower by adding some plant pots to the sides. This should instinctively make children walk up and down the steps a little slower. Add some brightly coloured flowers to really highlight the location of each step. You can even get your kids involved in this exercise by planting some flowers and soil in the pots.
Paint the steps
You can also paint the steps if you prefer. Again, your children can help with this project. Choose something bright, but ideally you want something which doesn’t look too out of place in the garden.