If you have children, your number one priority is their safety. At the same time, you can’t keep them locked up inside all day to protect them from any potential outdoor threats.
The ideal outdoor play area for our kids is in the backyard, preferably inside a fence. Unfortunately, not all of us are fortunate enough to have a fenced in backyard, or even a backyard at all.
At our last house, you could get from the back of our house to the property line in about four or five steps. We had a corner lot with a third of an acre, but the majority of the yard was on the sides and in the front of the house.
If you’re in a similar situation, or you simply want the option of letting your children play in the front yard, there are some things to keep in mind and some simple steps you can take to make it a safer environment.
Why Play in the Front Yard?
Before we dive into the various ways you can improve the safety of your front yard, we should first determine why we want our kids to play in the front yard in the first place.
As I already mentioned, the biggest reason that people want their kids to play in front of the house is that they simply don’t have any other options. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have backyards, and we don’t want to confine our children to only the inside of our homes.
Another reason to let your kids play in the front is to teach them about road safety. We can’t hold our child’s hand their entire life, so it’s important that we teach them what to look for and how to behave in certain situations. By spending time in the front yard, we can teach them the importance of watching for vehicles or even passing strangers.
One more reason that you might prefer the front yard is that your backyard doesn’t provide an ideal environment. For example, you might have neighbors behind you that you’d rather avoid. Or, you might have some dangerous power equipment stored in the back or some old trees that have branches that could break and fall at any time.
Whatever the reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to want to spend time with your kids in the front yard. What’s important is that we make it as safe of an environment as possible.
Safety Hazards in the Front Yard
For most homes, the front yard is more dangerous than the backyard. So, what are some of the potential hazards that lurk in front of your house?
The first, and typically the most worrisome to most, is vehicle traffic. Even if you live in a small neighborhood with a 15 MPH speed limit, there will always be people that break the rules and drive recklessly down your road. Depending on the distance of your house from the road, the speed limit, and the general condition of the road (flat, hilly, winding, etc.), this can be a real concern.
Another concern when spending time in the front yard is people walking by. In many neighborhoods, you usually feel pretty safe around your fellow homeowners, but all it takes is one person with bad intentions to go after your child when you’re not looking.
One last safety concern that you might have in front of your house is a stray animal, typically a neighbor’s dog. While most dogs are friendly, you never know how a dog will behave in an unfamiliar environment. The last thing you want is for a stray dog to wander into your yard and bite your child or attack your pets.
Depending on where you live, you might have other safety hazards that are much greater than the scope of this article. For example, certain areas have to deal with violent criminals wandering their neighborhood. If you’re in that situation, it’s probably too big of a risk to be spending time in your front yard at all.
How to Keep Your Children Safe in the Front Yard
1 – Set Boundaries
When you first introduce your children to the front yard, the first thing you should do is to make them aware of the areas that they can and cannot play in. For example, you should teach them that they can’t get within a certain distance from the road.
A simple method to set a visible boundary for your kids is to use orange cones. Simply set the cones along the front of your property at a safe distance from the road, then make sure your kids know that they are not allowed to go past those cones.
If you don’t have cones and don’t want to purchase them, simply use household items, like buckets, or even landscaping items that already exist in your yard.
2 – Use a Toddler Fence
If imaginary boundaries aren’t enough in your situation, or your child is at an age where they don’t need a lot of space to roam, consider using a toddler fence.
A toddler fence will physically limit the play area of your children. One disadvantage of a toddler fence is that they confine your children to a relatively small area. You may view this as a good or bad thing.
Toddler fences are also nice, because they can be used indoors and outdoors. When using them indoors, you can combine the toddler fence with some natural boundaries (like your walls) and create a safe play area for them that is much larger than what the toddler fence can provide on its own.
3 – Fence in Your Front Yard
If your children have outgrown a toddler fence, another effective option is to move onto an actual fence. A fence provides a physical barrier which not only helps to keep your kids in the appropriate area, but also helps to keep people and animals out.
In some neighborhoods, putting a fence in the front yard is considered unusual. In fact, many local ordinances won’t even allow it. Before you dig into your pockets and put your time, money, and effort into installing a fence, do some research to make sure it’s allowed in your area.
While a fence provides an effective boundary, it doesn’t protect against every possible event. People, including your children, can climb fences, people can still throw rocks over them, etc. You should always keep an eye on your kids in the front yard no matter what precautions you take.
4 – Place a Sign in Your Yard
Another option that can help to protect all the children on your street is to put a sign in your yard that says “Children at Play” or something along those lines. A sign only helps if it’s visible, so get one that stands out and put it in a location that everyone driving by can easily see.
I have a neighborhood close by that’s often used as a shortcut to get from point A to point B. As a result, a lot of people drive way too fast through there. A few people on the main street have signs of this nature in their yards, and while they won’t slow everyone down, they should at least make a few people more aware of their surroundings and hopefully make them more aware of their speed.
If you have a serious speeding offender in your neighborhood, don’t be afraid to contact the local authorities.
5 – Teach Them About Road Safety
One of the most important steps that you can take to keep your children safe in your front yard is to teach them about road safety. In fact, the act of teaching them about road safety itself is often a good enough reason to spend a little time out front.
Make sure they understand how dangerous moving vehicles are and what they should watch for as they approach a road. Work with them on how to safely cross the street. Help them identify out-of-control drivers, and teach them the importance of finding a safe area when one heads in their direction.
Teaching your children about safety is one of the best ways to not only protect them in your front yard, but in any potential situations they may encounter when out and about.
6 – Teach Them About Talking to Strangers
Teaching your children about safety doesn’t stop with vehicle and road safety. No matter what area you live in, you’re bound to have people that you don’t know occasionally walk by your house.
Make sure your children know how to respond if a stranger approaches them while they’re out playing in the front yard. Just because they’re in the safety of their own yard doesn’t mean the threat is any less real. In fact, most children who are abducted are taken very close to home.
The best protection against these perpetrators is to be outside with your kids while they’re playing.
7 – Get Creative with Your Landscaping
While most of us don’t have to worry about a vehicle driving up onto our lawn, if your property happens to be situated just right, this can be a very real problem for you.
I read a local story recently about a house that regularly had people drive up onto their lawn. Their property was positioned around a corner that was difficult to navigate, and people simply didn’t slow down as much as they should have slowed down.
If you’re in this situation, you should be very cautious about spending time out front. However, while not completely foolproof, there are some steps you can take to make it more difficult for vehicles to drive onto your grass.
One idea is to use strategically placed, large boulders along the front of your property. If a car veers toward your house, the boulders should at least slow them down.
Another option is to use large, wooden posts. I have seen these nicely decorated in yards in the past. In fact, there’s a house about a mile away that has one on each side of their driveway decorated with a nautical theme (they live on a lake).
8 – Always Monitor Your Children
This might be last on the list, but it is definitely the most important. Until your children get to an older age, always keep an eye on them when playing out front.
Even if you take all the precautions in the world, there are certain situations and events that simply can’t be predicted or protected against, like a child getting injured. The most important thing in these circumstances is for you to be there at the moment that something happens so that you can take immediate action.
Simply being in the front yard with your children will be enough to thwart most child predators from even considering your child as a potential target.
Letting your children play in the front yard can be a safety concern, but it doesn’t have to cause you fear and panic. By following a few simple precautions and staying alert, you and your kids can safely enjoy your time together in front of your house.