De-Ice, Nicely

We have spent the last several years discussing ways that you can green your early childhood center with plant materials in the outdoor play space and on your site in general. Now that winter has arrived, we'd like to say a few words about how to de-ice your sidewalks and ramps without using rock salt.

Experts have long known that those little sodium chloride pellets pose a danger to both children and pets. Salt-based ice melts can irritate eyes and accidentally ingesting them can cause stomach problems and kidney damage. Direct contact with the skin (after you track salt across the floors where children play) can lead to dermatitis, rashes or even blistering. This type of de-ice may also contaminate groundwater, kill plants, burn grasses and native species and even poison birds.

So what should you use to de-ice? Some people say using organic kitty liter, sand or even pine needles can be a better choice for children and the environment. There is also a product called Safe Paw, which is a non-toxic de-icer that is better for both your center and the environment. You can find this product at grocery stores and hardware stores and additional information can be found on their web site at Please make sure that all these types of products are used safely with young children and kept in storage areas out of reach from inquiring fingers.