Drought-Friendly and Kid-Friendly!
Given that we must decrease our water use and that 30 percent of our residential water supply is expended outdoors, cutting back on yard irrigation is crucial. But it’s also important to encourage our children to play outside. We can balance those two needs with help from an expert. Hartscape Company’s Gary Hart, a Mission Viejo landscaper with 38 years of experience, has great advice to make yards drought-tolerant while keeping them pretty, fun, and safe for our children:
- DO treat soil with newly developed penetrants such as Green As It Gets to ease the movement of water, air, and nutrients through it. A good soil penetrant may reduce water usage up to 40 percent.
- DON’T grow water-hogging plants from tropical regions, such as hibiscus and impatiens plants.
- DO plant California native plants that need little water, such as fragrant lilacs or pretty coral bells. Deer grass is drought-friendly and attracts ladybugs, which keep unwanted pests away and keep children interested in the outdoors.
- DON’T bring in thorny succulents. Though succulents use little water, thorny succulents such as agaves may turn outdoor play into outdoor pain.
- DO plant bright, soft, and tender succulents like Kalanchoe or blue fingers, and pretty flowers such as African daisies, birds of paradise, and California poppies.
- DON’T allow the firestick succulent in your yard. Its poisonous sap caused Orange County pastor Rick Warren temporary eye damage and a brief stay in the hospital.
Think Outside the Grass
Fun and Water-free Stuff for Yards
What About Artificial Grass?
By Debra Garfinkle
Your Watchful Eye
The Most Powerful Tool to Prevent an Accidental Drowning
I used to think — and I’m sure many of you did too that my mom had eyes in the back of her head. She seemed to see everything! Now, as an adult and a family doctor, I think, “if only that were true,” because that extra set of eyes would be so helpful for any parent or caregiver, especially when it comes to safety around the water.
Sadly, many of us have heard reports on the news that a child has drowned. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths among children under the age of five in California, according to the State of California Department of Developmental Services. Nationally, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages one to 14-years-old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It only takes a few minutes for a person to drown, and it can happen in less than two inches of water. When someone survives a near-drowning incident, he or she may have brain damage requiring lifelong medical care.
Childhood drownings are preventable. Constant supervision is the best way to protect your child around water this summer and all year round.
Safety Precautions Around the House
Parents and caretakers must carefully watch children around swimming pools, but also toilets, bathtubs and any large container of water such as a bucket. Babies and toddlers are typically top heavy, and if they lean over a toilet, bathtub or bucket they can easily fall in head first and then be unable to lift themselves out.
When a child is in the bathtub, never leave the bathroom to answer the phone or to get something. Bring the phone in the bathroom with you, so it’s right there if you need it. If you need to leave the bathroom, pull your child out of the water and take him or her with you. Drain the water immediately after bath time. Also be sure to empty water in buckets and baby pools as soon as you are finished using them.
Safety Precautions Around the Pool
If you have a pool at home, some safety precautions include:
- Put up an unclimbable pool fence that is at least five feet high and isolates the pool from the rest of the yard.
- Install a self-closing and self-locking gate.
- Keep toys away from the pool when not in use.
- Move tables and chairs away from the pool fence.
- Lock all windows and doors leading to the pool area.
- Purchase a lock for your pet door if it leads to the backyard so your child can’t climb through it.
While in the Water
You should always supervise children and adolescents while in the water, and adults should never swim alone.
Designate specific people to watch children in the water at parties. For example, at a party there may be several adults around the pool, but you should never assume they are watching your child. In addition to your supervision, consider having an adult who is undistracted and who hasn’t been consuming alcohol at the party to focus just on watching the children.
Lifeguards and floatation devices can give people a false sense of security. You still need to watch your child at a public pool where there is a lifeguard, and keep your child close — at arm’s length distance to be able to grab them — if they are using floaties and are unable to swim.
Teach Your Child to Swim
When a child learns to swim, his or her risk of drowning decreases nearly 90 percent, according to the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. Even when your child learns to swim, he or she still needs to be supervised while in the water. Be sure to teach your child that they must always swim with an adult.
CPR can save lives and surprisingly, 70 percent of Americans do not know how to administer it, according to the American Heart Association. Learn CPR. There are many community resources you can research to find a CPR class or demonstration near you. Parents should also insist that babysitters and caregivers know CPR.
In the Event of an Emergency
Check the pool and bathtub first if you are unable to find your child at home. Should you find your child in the pool or a bathtub remove him or her immediately and check for a pulse. If there is no pulse, call 9-1-1 first and then begin administering CPR until help arrives.
Water Safety at the Beach
It’s also important to be safe at the beach. Here are some beach safety tips from the Orange County Fire Authority:
- Keep small children and children who do not have a lot of experience swimming within arm’s reach. Rip currents can pull even strong swimmers out to sea.
- Don’t rely on floatation devices. Adult supervision is still necessary even if your child is wearing a life jacket.
- Swim near a lifeguard.
- Remember, whether your children are in the bath, pool or ocean, the best way to keep them safe around water is to provide constant supervision.
By Dr. Jeffrey F. Klein
New Kids on the Block
Although some of these are based on centuries-old concepts, we’d wager you don’t see too many in the backyards of OC. Bonus — no need for a lawn to enjoy these games!
Forget the rainforest or dodgy cruise-line excursion options, set up a quality zip-line in your own back yard. Toy level or heavy duty lines for up to 350lb riders available.
Starting at $59, www.ziplinegear.com
A new combination of bocce and horseshoes, the unexpected element of chance keeps this a fair game for a variety of ages to play together. Bring to the beach or play at home on any surface.
Kubb and Scatter
Swedish-favorite Kubb (“koob”) dates back to the days of the Vikings. This new-to-US strategy game is played by tossing wooden dowels underhanded to knock over opponents’ kubb blocks. Finnish game, Mölkky, is reimagined as Scatter — a math-friendly game of knocking over opponents’ “skittles” to reach a 50-point victory.
Starting at $39, yardgames.us
Classic Yard Games
These traditional games not only can promote great family bonding time, but are perfect for the small spaces we tend to have here in OC.
Toss Games — Washers and Cornhole
These are great at any age, no brainer toss games are a cinch for even the littlest family members to pick up and can be personalized to show some serious team spirit. (Go Angels! Er…or Dodgers!)
Starting at $59, yardgames.com
Think of it as all the fun of horseshoes, without the broken windows. This handy tournament-regulation set comes with a handy carrying caddy and tape measure for those hotly contested family game sessions.
Release your inner Napoleon Dynamite and bring this classic school playground game to your own backyard. Kids can brush up on their volleying skills in even the most postage-stamp-sized yard.