Age-Appropriate Tasks for Children on Farms and Ranches

Ag Safety and Health October 26, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

Use the following format to cite this article:

Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from


Children play an active role on many farms and ranches, but it is the responsibility of parents, caregivers, or supervisors to assign them age-appropriate tasks, restrict access to work areas, give easy-to-understand instructions, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain equipment with operational safety devices, and provide supervision to reduce the risk of injury or death. The most common causes of agricultural-related fatalities for children are machinery or tractor accidents, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents, including accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Most nonfatal injuries result from falls or incidents with livestock.

Because rates of physical and mental development can vary from child to child, understanding how children develop is critical to identifying age-appropriate tasks for them. A child’s size, strength, motor skills, and coordination are all factors in determining whether he or she is physically able to complete certain tasks. But you must also determine whether a child has the cognitive skills to understand and follow instructions, make good decisions, and understand that unsafe actions may have consequences that lead to injury or death. Click here to view Children and Safety on the Farm, a publication furnished by Penn State Extension that provides a comprehensive chart of the developmental characteristics of children from birth through age 18 and offers details about how children develop, common causes of injury or death for each age group, strategies to prevent accidents, and appropriate work tasks.

Choosing the Right Tasks

Child feeding calf

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Children are eager to work on the farm or ranch alongside other family or team members. However, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it. Children working on a farm or ranch need the appropriate physical and cognitive maturity to complete any assigned tasks. The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) guidelines are contained in a searchable database that enables you to identify a farm task and follow a checklist  to determine a child’s ability to complete the task. Click here to be linked to the NAGCAT database to determine whether a farm task is appropriate for a child.

Key Points about Children Working on Farms and Ranches:

  • A child should never be an extra rider on a tractor. The rule is "one seat one rider."
  • Supervise all children. Do not leave them alone on the farm or ranch.
  • Provide children with the appropriate PPE for a given task and teach children the proper use and fit of any items of PPE.
  • Keep equipment in proper working condition.
  • Do not allow visiting children into farm work areas; restrict such areas to children working on the farm.
  • Be a good role model by wearing PPE and following safe operating procedures.
  • If children are not physically and cognitively ready to work on the farm, ensure that they have appropriate child care and are not in farm work areas.
  • Routinely inspect your farm or ranch for hazards and immediately remove these dangers.
  • Encourage children to participate in local farm and ranch safety activities. To learn more about farm safety activities in your area, contact your local Cooperative Extension office. Click here to link to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) listing of Cooperative Extension offices.


Use the following format to cite this article:

Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from



2011 Fact Sheet: Childhood Agricultural Injuries. (2011) National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Retrieved from

Graham, L. & Oesterreich, L. (2004) Farm safety for young children. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from

Murphy, D. & Hackett, K. (1997) Children and safety on the farm. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from

North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) guidelines. (1999) Retrieved from

Schwab, C., Shutske, J., & Miller, L. (2001) Match age, abilities to farm chores. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from

Youth agricultural safety. (2003) Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation. Retrieved from


Reviewed and Summarized by:
Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University –
Prosper Doamekpor, Tuskegee University –
Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University –
Michael Pate, Utah State University –
Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center -

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube


This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by



SAY Project and National Clearinghouse

Women in Agriculture

Mobile Apps

Recursos en Español sobre Seguridad y Salud Agrícola

Resources Available

Education and Outreach

Self-Paced Learning

Instructor Led Learning

Training and Resources for Instructors


Upcoming Events

Video Resources

Articles (by Topic Area)


This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.