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The right age for kids and yard work

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Digging, planting, trimming, mowing

Yes, you love your yard. You worked hard for this yard, for this home you’ve created and the outdoor space where the kids play. But sometimes -- and especially at times of the year when the yard seems to need extra attention in advance of its most used season -- you can wonder how all that yard work is going to get done. Well…you managed to get the kids to help with the spring cleaning inside. Why not get them to help with the outside spring yard work? Yup, the kids can help!

family gardening

In the garden, obviously, the kids can't do the big stuff -- the heavy lifting, using the power equipment and so on, but they can help out and often like to. On a beautiful spring morning, get the whole family out for some yard sprucing up. As with in-house spring cleaning, keep the attitude light and positive and make the spring yard work fun for everyone. (And don't forget the sunscreen!)

Everyone can help

Yes, really. Just about everyone in the family can contribute to the yard work. And if everyone is out there -- it gets done quicker! Well, most of the time anyway. Yes, the little ones need to be guided -- and occasionally held back from over-zealous weeding, but they love to get their hands in the dirt.

So let them! Set up the little ones in a spot where they can weed or aerate the soil to their heart's content while the bigger kids and grown ups do bigger things.

>> Can You Dig It: Gardens, plants, vegetable & flower gardens and more

Digging and planting

Even very young kids like to muck around in the dirt. It was children who invented mud pies after all. Set up your younger kids with some kid-sized tools, seeds and simple encouragement and let then go. The seeds will get planted -- albeit not in straight rows -- and they'll likely be happy clams. Make sure you have several such tasks at the ready for your master yard diggers.

Raking and more digging and planting

As kids get older -- say, five and up -- they can help with things like raking and getting leaves out of the planting beds. To help you along, there are kid-sized rakes available along with other kid-sized yard tools. And if your daughter finds a slug or two, consider it a science project to let her watch it slime itself across some leaves.

Kids in the range of age 10 or so can start to take on more responsibility by trimming off old blooms from shrubs and other kinds of tasks. Keep yard tasks discrete and to the point. Small chunks of effort seem to be more manageable than big tasks.

Mowing and more

How old until your child can help out with the mowing? That all depends. Some kids can handle such responsibility sooner than others. If you have a non-motorized push motor, you child will need some instruction or supervision, but can likely handle it earlier. Motorized push mowers require more serious training and trust, but many young teens can handle that -- and may be eager to do so if it means earning a little more allowance.

If your mower is a ride-on, a few more years of maturity may be right. (See some safety notes about mowers here.) For things like leaf blowers, hedge trimmers and weed whackers, the appropriateness will depend on your child -- with supervision by you, of course.

With the whole family's help, the yard will be cleaned up and looking lovely quicker than ever this year. Getting the whole family involved -- with a positive attitude -- means more outside enjoyment and pride for everyone.

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