The calendar is giving us a break this year. Since Christmas falls on a Wednesday, manyschool kids will have two full weeks of holiday vacation.What’s a kid to do?Many older kids and teens go to work on the farm to earn a little money or just helpout. Younger children want to play outside. If they’re on a farm, that’s usually aroundwater or in barns and sheds.”Parents have to be especially careful when allowing children and youths to helpwith farm chores and even where they play on the farm,” said Bob Tyson, an engineerwith the University of Georgia Extension Service.National statistics reveal that 300 youths under age 20 die on U.S. farms and ranchesevery year. Nearly 27,000 are injured.”It’s up to parents to lead children in the right direction and insist that theyfollow safety rules,” Tyson said.For many parents, that’s a special incentive to follow safety rules themselves. Settinga good example may be the best way to teach children safe farm working habits.Children watch adults around them to learn safety rules and when, or if, it’s OK tobreak them sometimes. “It’s never OK to break safety rules,” Tyson said.He said youths ages 13 to 14 can probably do just about every job that needs to be doneon a farm. Parents should work closely with younger children. Once parents learn theirchild’s abilities they can make judgments about allowing the child to do a certain farmjob.Most children under 13 can operate tractors and other heavy machinery during routinetasks. But Tyson said they probably can’t react quickly and appropriately when anemergency occurs.Make sure they know to:* Put any PTO shaft into neutral before they get off the tractor.* Never, ever, reach or step over a PTO shaft.* Never get into filled or filling grain storage bins.* Leave any equipment that might fall parked with the bucket or lift on the ground.* Always know where all the people around them are before starting or moving tractorsor equipment.Parents need to make sure their children and their friends know the dangers on thefarm.”Dangers are everywhere — not just around tractors and equipment,” Tysonsaid.Many children like to ride in pickup truck beds. But without seat belts, they caneasily fall or be thrown out of the truck during a minor accident or sudden stop. InGeorgia, passengers under 18 must use seat belts, no matter what type of vehicle they’rein.Watch youths on all-terrain vehicles. Be sure children have and use a properly fittedhelmet while riding ATVs. Just because makers downsize some models for children, itdoesn’t mean they can safely handle them.Store farm chemicals in locked rooms or separate buildings away from normal play areas.Never put chemicals into containers anyone could mistake for a drink.Make sure all safety shields and guards are in place and intact. Even children watchinga parent making repairs or working could be hurt by flying parts or debris.Lock access doors to grain storage bins. Loose corn or grain looks like fun to play in,but can’t support the weight of even small children. Anyone in a grain bin can sink intothe bin and suffocate.”Almost all accidents that happen on a farm are preventable,” said MikeBader, an extension engineer.While many children and youths enjoy helping around the farm, it’s important that theyknow and follow safety rules, too.