Development FAQ: 18-24 months – Other Advice

What steps should we take to make our garden safe for our 19 mth old daughter?

We would love our 19-month-old daughter, Anna, to spend as much time outdoors as possible, but wonder what we should do to make the garden safe for her. Our back door from the kitchen links to a small patio, beyond which is grass, flower borders and a couple of apple trees. My husband enjoys DIY and would like to build a swing and sandbox at the far end of the garden, but I can’t think how much time she will spend there unless I am out with her too. How old does she need to be before I can let her out on her own?

It is lovely to have a garden for children to play in, but you are quite right about supervision at this age. The hidden dangers a garden pose mean that your daughter should not be left unsupervised until she is three. A way around this problem would be to fence off a small part of the patio, and perhaps a patch of grass, around the back door area. Make sure that the fencing is constructed of vertical slats, rather than horizontal, to prevent climbing. If a section of the flower border is included, check that none of the plants are poisonous. Plants with colourful berries will attract her, so it would be better to move any such plants to another area of the garden. Colour can always be introduced with hanging baskets that are well out of reach.

Let Anna play in this safe area while you are working in the kitchen, but keep a watchful eye on her and don’t be tempted to run upstairs even for a minute. Provide her with a small ride-on and maybe a dolls’ pram or buggy, so she can begin to amuse herself for short periods of time. This summer, while the swing and sandbox are being constructed, provide Anna with a small sandpit on the patio (made from plastic with a lid) so you can watch her playing. Having a sandpit on the patio, rather than surrounded by grass, makes for much easier cleaning up. Check the sand daily and always cover at night to prevent it being used by cats and other animals. Finally, make sure there is time in the day for you to enjoy your garden too!