Giving children chores around the house at a young age can help them develop independence and a sense of responsibility. That said, some parents may be wondering, “How old do you have to be to ride a lawnmower?”
Lawnmowers can be dangerous to operate and should be kept away from children under 12 years of age. Over 9,000 children in the United States are treated in emergency rooms each year for lawn mower-related injuries.
As a result, it’s recommended that children don’t use any type of lawnmower before the ages of 12 and 16. There are even legal age limits for operating lawn mowers in some countries.
If you’re thinking about assigning lawn mowing to your child, keep reading to find out the age limit for both walk-behind and ride-on lawnmowers.
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Age Limit to Use a Walk-Behind Lawn Mower
As the name suggests, a walk-behind lawn mower is one that you walk behind and push forward while mowing.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the starting age for using a walk-behind lawn mower is 12 years old. This age limit also goes for self-propelled, push, and hand mowers, which have a similar mechanism and require physical pushing.
Even so, children 12 years old and above shouldn’t operate a lawnmower without adult supervision.
Age Limit to Use a Ride-On Lawn Mower
Generally, a child must be at least 16 years old to operate a ride-on mower.
One possible reason that ride-on lawnmowers have a higher age limit is that they’re statistically more dangerous than walk-behind ones.
In a study conducted by the plastic and reconstructive surgery department in Columbus, Ohio, 108 of 142 patients treated for lawn mower-related injuries were injured while riding a ride-on lawnmower.
Age Limit to Ride a Lawn Mower
You should never ride a mower as a passenger, no matter how old you are. Grass cutters don’t have two seats and are thus not intended for more than one person.
Extra riders can distract the driver and obstruct access to the mower’s controls. In addition, there’s a high risk of falling off the machine, which can lead to severe injuries.
The same study conducted by the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery found that 29 patients were injured when they fell off the mower while riding.
Keep in mind that no child under the age of 12 should be allowed near any type of lawnmower. It’s even advised that children aged six and under remain indoors while the lawn is being mowed.
Children left to their own devices while someone is mowing are more likely to be hit by flying debris. Unfortunately, there are also unfortunate situations where mowers can run over children. That’s why it’s best to keep children, or anyone else, out of harm’s way, preferably inside.
How to Determine Whether Your Child Is Ready to Use a Lawn Mower
We all know maturity, physical strength, and coordination vary with each individual. No two 12 or 16-year-old children are the same, so just because a child is old enough to use a lawn mower doesn’t mean they’re ready to use one.
Lawnmower injuries can be nasty, but they’re easily avoidable. That’s why determining whether your child is ready to use one or not is crucial to prevent any accidents.
Here are the characteristics that any individual must possess to operate a lawnmower safely.
Sense of Judgment
No one is born with good judgment or the ability to make sound decisions. However, through age-appropriate chores and parental guidance, children can start making educated decisions and thus develop a good sense of judgment.
Teaching your child the importance of safety precautions is one way you can improve his or her judgment.
Removing Debris Before Mowing
Rocks, stones, twigs, toys, and furniture can damage a mower. You should teach your child to pick up and remove any material that a lawnmower isn’t made to cut.
Your child should also know that small children and pets should be moved indoors before they start mowing.
When lawn mowing, dirt, and debris can become projectile missiles. The sound from the mower is also loud. Therefore, your child must wear eye and hearing protection.
What’s more, your child should avoid wearing sandals or shoes made from flimsy materials. Lawnmower blades are razor-sharp and can spin at speeds of up to 200 mph, so wearing closed-toe shoes is essential to protect the toes and feet.
Reading the Manual
Reading a manual for any machine, not just lawn mowers, is a beneficial habit to learn. It can teach your child to listen and follow the lead of more experienced people rather than jumping into any task without prior knowledge.
In addition, most manuals have a part that covers the machine’s safety guidelines. If you teach your child to read it thoroughly, they can learn how to take care of the expensive machine.
For example, your child will know that they should let the engine cool off first before filling the fuel tank.
Children’s ability to protect themselves and the lawnmower improves as they learn what is right and wrong. They’ll learn to make sound decisions over time, and you’ll be able to leave them alone with the machine.
You may need to multitask depending on the type of grass cutter you have. This is especially true for ride-on lawnmowers as you’ll need to use a pedal, shift gears, and other various controls.
While some people can be more coordinated than others, coordination is an acquired skill that can improve with constant effort.
You can begin by showing your child the various controls while the lawnmower is turned off. Then, while your child is using the machine. Supervise them to ensure that he or they can complete the task on their own.
Physical Strength and Height
Lawnmowers can be pretty heavy, with the lightest ones weighing around 20 to 30 pounds. As a result, lawn care is regarded as a physically demanding activity that requires a certain level of strength and stamina.
What’s more, if a child is 12 years old but shorter than the lawn mower’s handle, they shouldn’t use the machine. You must be able to see the path ahead of you so that you don’t step on debris.
That said, if your child is over the age of 16 and operating a ride-on lawnmower, physical strength and height have no bearing on the child’s ability to use the machine.
How old do you have to be to ride a lawnmower?
It’s a valid question to ask, especially when you’re thinking about putting your child onto the task of lawn mowing. This task is an age-restricted chore and shouldn’t be assigned to just anyone.
Lawn mowing requires a good sense of judgment, coordination, and physical strength, which most children under 12 lack. Moreover, because ride-on lawnmowers are equally dangerous to anyone, they require a certain level of maturity. That’s why only individuals over the age of 16 should use them.
Keep in mind that not all children will be up to the task of lawn mowing. You can instead assign them indoor chores or if you want them to spend more time outside, gardening and weeding.