By Christina VanGinkel
Let me explain that to my family, I am considered the one who worries enough for everybody else, to the point that they do not need to worry about anything at all, as they are sure I have it covered. Take my daughter and grandson for an example. This past summer, when they would come for a visit and my young grandson would wander outside into the garden, I would be constantly checking on him, ordering my daughter to also, or having my husband check on him. Keep in mind that we do live rurally, but our garden is small no matter how you measure it. By him wandering, I am referring to him stepping a few rows over, or walking to the far side of it to our rabbit's hutch, as in single white rabbit, furry, friendly, and only active enough to get up and approach whoever is at his cage door if they happen to be sporting a carrot the size of New Zealand!
Still, i9 had a million worries that would run through my mind on the hazards of a small child in a garden. Realistically, I know many of them were unfounded, such as the time I worried that a bear might be around. Yes, we do have black bear in our area, but we also have a yard full of hounds that would bark non-stop if a bear were anywhere in a quarter mile radius of the house. Not to mention that a field backs our garden past the rabbit hutch and we could see clear as day that there was not a bear around. The wildest thing out there in the garden that day was my grandson himself stomping on ladybugs!
There are dangers to be found in a garden though, and a toddler or young child, should not be left unattended in one. Spiders frequent gardens, and while the majority of them are not harmful as far as their bites go, many are. Keep in mind that some spiders, whose bite would not be a danger to an adult, could be harmful to a small child, mainly because of the child's small size. In addition, any bite, poisonous or not, is not going to be something a child is going to get over quickly. It will hurt, and they will remember that.
Bees and wasps are another danger that we do not often give a lot of thought to, until someone is stung. Allergic as I am to wasps, and after being witness to a friends young daughter have a serious allergic reaction after being stung by a bee as she reached out to pick a flower in the family's garden, I am constantly aware that small kids do not always think when surrounded by flowers and vegetables when it comes to bugs and insects. At the least, they can cause pain, and at their worst, a severe allergic reaction that will require immediate medical attention.
Other small bugs and creatures also live in and around a garden, and with all of them, including the bees and wasps, and spiders, teaching kids never to touch them is really the smartest thing you can do. If you want to show a child a caterpillar for example, have the adult pick it up, reminding the kids that they should not handle any bug or insect, no matter how cute they think they might be. If you have an older child, get them a bug kit if they are the type that is so inclined to pick up everything, and teach them how to use the tweezers and net to handle the bugs, never letting their hands come in contact. Even then, remind them that some are still not to be approached, such as wasps, bees, spiders, centipedes, and scorpions!
Living in the Northwood's of Wisconsin, I am also aware of the dangers brought on by ticks. They are known to carry Lyme's Disease in our area, and a variety of other illnesses in different parts of the country. Gardens are of course just one of the many places that they can be, but it is a concern. Some are as small as the size of a pinhead or even a speck of dirt, and illness does not always show up right away, yet even I know that staying inside is not the way to deal with ticks. They can be blown about in the wind even walking to my front door from the car, or carried in on the family dog. Being vigilant about checking for them throughout spring, summer, and fall is really the only way to handle them, wearing long sleeves and socks when you know you may be in an area that has a lot of them, and using some of the approved tick control products that are available. With my grandson, my daughter keeps his hair cut short to aid in doing tick checks throughout the day, as he spends so much of his time outdoors.
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