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Can my 5-year-old help me mow the lawn?
Preg.: My 5-year-old son is fascinated with the lawn mower and wants to help me cut the grass. My dad used to let me help, but I wonder if there are any special precautions I should take.
Vince Kingston
Resp.: Many children are fascinated by power lawn mowers, and even consider them toys, but they're among the most dangerous tools at home. Each year, approximately 20,000 children and more than 200,000 adults are treated in emergency rooms nationwide for injuries caused by power mowers. Children can be injured when they use lawn mowers and when they're near them. Lawn mower injuries include loss of fingers or toes from reaching or kicking underneath the mower or from the mower rolling over hands or feet; burns from touching a hot mower or the exhaust, and eye injuries from flying stones and sticks.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following safety precautions to help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:
  • Teach young children to stay clear of the mower when it's running. Keep children indoors or at a safe distance when you're mowing.
  • Don't let children be passengers on ride-on mowers.
  • Don't let a child operate a push mower until he's 12 years old and a ride-on until he's 16.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects by picking up stones, sticks and toys from the lawn before mowing. Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released.
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection and sturdy shoes for mowing instead of sandals or sneakers.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  • Make sure that blade settings are done by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Avoid pulling the mower backward or mowing in reverse. Look out for children behind you if you do.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute or crossing gravel paths.