Garden safety for kids part 2: Using tools and preventing injury

Learn to stay safe in the garden.

Michigan State University Extension recommends gardening as a great activity for people of all ages. Not only can children learn about the life cycle of plants, they can also learn about fruit, vegetables and build skills for a life-long activity.  Keeping safe in the garden is very important for children. The following tips will help keep kids safe whether they are in a school or home garden.  For more information about safe gardening, see part one of this article – Getting ready for the garden. 

Before using tools:

  • Prior to use, inspect tools for defects or damage including splintered handles, dulled heads and blades, worn teeth or broken joints. If the tool has defects or damage, remove it from use until it is repaired.
  • Instructions on how to use the tool should be given by an experienced user of the tool.
  • Power tools are not appropriate for most children under 14. Children over 14 should not use power tools unless they have been thoroughly trained on how to operate them appropriately and have the strength and maturity to control the tool. 
  • Very young children should not be given sharp tools.
  • Children using tools should be supervised by an adult.
  • Tools are not to be used on other people.  Reinforce this message with kids in the garden.

Using Tools:

  • Every tool has a dangerous side – for cutting, breaking up soil, digging, raking or weeding. An easy way to instruct kids is to explain that they should think of the edges- shovels, rake tines, trimmer blades – as the red zone and make sure that they are careful of the red zone of the tool.
  • Tools should always be held with the red zone pointed down towards the ground.
  • When putting a tool down, the cutting edge (or red zone) should be close to the ground – rakes should be put with tines down – as should forks, hoes, and shovels.
  • Tools are not toys and there is no horseplay allowed with tools.
  • Kids should also be aware of the danger that long handles can pose.  Tools are not batons to be swung around or swords or stilts. Neither should tools be thrown, left on the ground, or put in pockets.
    • Make sure a child allows adequate room when using a tool to prevent injury to others
    • Use tools away from your own body and look where you are going to make sure it is away from everyone else’s body too.
    • Use the proper hand tool for the work you are doing.  Using the wrong tool for the job can result in more force being used and danger for the user.

Prevent injuries in the garden:

  • Rotate tasks to prevent repetitive motion injuries.
  • Lifting should be done with the knees and not the back. Children are encouraged to carry only what they can manage safely.
  • Use wheelbarrows to move heavy loads and make smaller trips if necessary.

After using tools:

  • Tools are cleaned and put away after use in their proper location.
  • In some cases, tools should be disinfected to prevent cross contamination.
  • Hoses should be rolled up to prevent tripping.


  • Garden chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, should not be used by children – please keep them away from children in a secure and properly ventilated storage area. 

Other articles in this series:

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