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I'm looking for some sage advice from those that have been there, done this before. My nine, almost ten year old daughter has indicated a significant amount of interest in starting to help mow the lawn. I think she's big enough, mature enough, and takes guidance well enough that I'm ready to let her start. She's actually mowed twice already, and did an acceptable job. Needs to slow down a bit, but I digress.

My primary question is this: What would you put your daughter on to mow with if you had the choice: Husqvarna ZTR vs JD 1025R with 60" MMM vs. John Deere garden tractor (GT 235 or similar)?

I'm currently mowing 2.3 flat acres with many trees and obstacles with a Husqvarna ZTR. I'm in the process of purchasing the 2 acres next door, which is wide open and flat. The ZTR is already 10 years old, and going from 2 to 4+ acres is probaby going to wear it out in a hurry. The logical decision is to buy a nice ZTR, but I'm hesitant to because of the weight. I live in a very low lying, swampy area, and am afraid that the 1500 lb commercial ZTR will tear the place up. Sometimes my 700 lb Husky tears up the place in the spring and fall. It's not unusual to have standing water for weeks on end. I'd rather not have to contribute to the "where did you stick your ZTR today" thread!

I'm pretty sure I want to add a deck to my 1025, simply for summer mowing when the ground is hard, and I want to be able to mow at 3.5-4 inch height. The current ztr will only cut at 2.75 max, and the yard becomes very dry very quickly at that height. Use the ztr when it's wet ground and around the obstacles, and use the 1025 during the summer and in the wide open areas.

Thoughts?
 

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If I had to choose —— Garden tractor, but, regardless of the machine, (after you have drilled her with all the safety aspects)
Thee most important first step is to just let them ride/drive the machine for several hours without using the mower. Remove the deck if you think they may not mind you and try to engage the blades, just to see what happens.

Make it fun, set up a “gas station”, and whatever else may keep the interest. There’s a good amount of teaching just the basics of what all the pedals, levers and buttons are for, how to check the oil & fuel, proper starting and shut down, etc.

Watch them operate and tell them 500 jillion times not to ever get off the seat with the engine running.

ONLY YOU should determine at what stage of the learning process YOUR CHILD is ready to operate a machine capable of serious injury or death.

Good luck and have fun with it !
 

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1. garden tractor(that is how I started out my son)
2. 1025R
3. ZTR (definitely last)


Dave
 

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1. garden tractor(that is how I started out my son)
2. 1025R
3. ZTR (definitely last)


Dave
A lot of good advice above. I would go with this order but will say kids pick up the ZTR’s quick, maybe because of better reflex’s. I always had a bad habit of not shutting the motor off when I would get off it. Training the boys made it so I would always shut off the motor when I would hop off although it killed me to do that with the air cooled engines. Engines are cheaper than legs though. As they grew up they were trusted to idle it down and get off.

I don’t think the speed people mow at changes. My dad mows slow, my oldest started mowing slow and still does. Me and my youngest have always mowed fast.

ZTR= good skid loader training:good2:
 

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1. garden tractor(that is how I started out my son)
2. 1025R
3. ZTR (definitely last)


Dave
Our son drove an old Toro lawn tractor all over the place starting at about 6 years old. He didn’t mow with it, just drove it around “farming” and pulling a cart. He became very proficient at backing up that cart, he could pretty much parallel park it! He then moved on to a JD185 he got from a neighbor. It was faster and more powerful. Plus it was GREEN:greentractorride:!
We let him start mowing when he was probably 9. We had him mow a large rectangular part of the yard with no obstacles. He would start at the outside and circle his way to the center. It looked terrible but he was learning in a safe environment. Fast forward four years to today and he mows the whole yard (probably about 1.5 acres). This year he became very concerned with keeping straight lines and laying down nice stripes, alternating direction by 45* each mowing. I know my wife and I really appreciate his work! And it looks really nice when he’s done:cheers:
 

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Our son drove an old Toro lawn tractor all over the place starting at about 6 years old. He didn’t mow with it, just drove it around “farming” and pulling a cart. He became very proficient at backing up that cart, he could pretty much parallel park it! He then moved on to a JD185 he got from a neighbor. It was faster and more powerful. Plus it was GREEN:greentractorride:!
We let him start mowing when he was probably 9. We had him mow a large rectangular part of the yard with no obstacles. He would start at the outside and circle his way to the center. It looked terrible but he was learning in a safe environment. Fast forward four years to today and he mows the whole yard (probably about 1.5 acres). This year he became very concerned with keeping straight lines and laying down nice stripes, alternating direction by 45* each mowing. I know my wife and I really appreciate his work! And it looks really nice when he’s done:cheers:

I think that is the best way if you start early. My boys was a craftsman rear engine rider and a number 7 JD wagon. I had to weld a extension on the clutch/brake pedal but it got them used to clutching and shifting. That poor rider did more work and pulled more dirt than it should have ever been asked too.
 

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Our son drove an old Toro lawn tractor all over the place starting at about 6 years old. He didn’t mow with it, just drove it around “farming” and pulling a cart.
Great idea.
That's the way I started -- farm tractor with trailer in a two acre open field. I not only learned about power and maneuvering, but when I accidentally shifted into "road" gear, no trees or equipment were harmed.
 

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1. garden tractor(that is how I started out my son)
2. 1025R
3. ZTR (definitely last)


Dave
This would be my order as well.

Sure it would take a long time to mow with the GT but that is more seat time learning the tool.

One of the other concerns though is the safeties. My kids are 11 and 13. My 13 year old could operate either the X585 or Z950R as she is big enough physically. I don't think my 11 year old could. Not without doing some tweaks such as disconnecting the seat safety. If they are small enough or light enough where every time they hit a bump it shuts off the PTO or tractor it is going to be a PITA. When she was 9 or 10 she wasn't big enough either to operate it for this reason. It seems like over the last year she has shot up more. That growth spirt hasn't hit my son yet.

Neither of them have ever operated my ZTR. They have operated the X585 but I don't use that for mowing anymore. I have let them pull a trailer around or some very light FEL work. I am talking moving some bigger sticks and that is it. No ground engagement work, turning the compost pile. I would consider letting the older one use the x585 for mowing but in all honesty, I never get to use my Z950R either. My father in law is around all summer in their 5th wheel in the back yard so he always cuts the grass while I am at work. So the only seat time I see is when I am doing leaves in the fall and some spring cleanup.
 

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Just my two cents, but the garden tractor will be easier, or the 1025 if you dont want a GT.
Slower, easier to get the hang of. I know here, my girls wont even consider the Exmark because to them it looks more intimidating to operate.
They have both used the 318. The oldest has used the 318 to mow, and used the 2025.

A couple other points to ponder.
Let them use the tractor for chores, yard cleanup etc without mowing. Once they show an aptitude for using it, then slowly explain the mowing process, dangers, etc.
Someone above mentioned removing the deck if you think they might try it against your wishes. If this is a concern, they are NOT ready.
The last one, and one Im hoping helps me a bit in the next year or so, is that driving a GT or SCUT, they will already have some of the basics down when learning to drive a car later on.
A zero turn doesnt do much for that, as it doesnt turn anything like a car, and with the later machines, the forward reverse pedals can help with accelerating and braking.
 

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1. garden tractor(that is how I started out my son)
2. 1025R
3. ZTR (definitely last)


Dave
Just my two cents, but the garden tractor will be easier, or the 1025 if you dont want a GT.
Slower, easier to get the hang of. I know here, my girls wont even consider the Exmark because to them it looks more intimidating to operate.
They have both used the 318. The oldest has used the 318 to mow, and used the 2025.

A couple other points to ponder.
Let them use the tractor for chores, yard cleanup etc without mowing. Once they show an aptitude for using it, then slowly explain the mowing process, dangers, etc.
Someone above mentioned removing the deck if you think they might try it against your wishes. If this is a concern, they are NOT ready.
The last one, and one Im hoping helps me a bit in the next year or so, is that driving a GT or SCUT, they will already have some of the basics down when learning to drive a car later on.
A zero turn doesnt do much for that, as it doesnt turn anything like a car, and with the later machines, the forward reverse pedals can help with accelerating and braking.


I grew up running my father's 317 at around the age of the OP. As for my kids like I mentioned they have a little seat time with the X585. My youngest has a hard time reaching the forward/reverse pedals even with the seat all the way forward. That is where the seat safety is an issue as he slides forward to push on the pedal but then his butt comes off the seat too much and it shuts off. Well I guess that was more of an issue a year or two ago.

Another thing that they had to do before I let them operate it at all was to point at every switch, lever and pedal and they had to tell me what it does. Even stuff that they would never change like cut height. They had to know from memory what it does and why they would need it.

I agree that they also will grasp the concept as it comes to driving a little sooner than other kids their age that haven't operated anything other than a bike. We also have an electric golf cart and they have been driving that around the yard for many years. Getting to drive that is one of the rewards to picking up sticks.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for all the thoughts. She's a great kid, and has followed all my instructions to the letter so far. At this point, she's used the ZTR several times, both mowing and pulling stuff around, and has done well. You can see the improvement in her ability to turn and control the machine every time she uses it. Keep in mind, this is a homeowner duty machine, not a JD Ztrak. No issues bouncing out of the seat yet.

I was originally considering buying a garden tractor, but I think she's short enough that she'll struggle to reach the pedals and stay on the seat, so that idea is on hold for now. Although, the 800 hour 318 that popped up for sale last night has me thinking...
 

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Thanks for all the thoughts. She's a great kid, and has followed all my instructions to the letter so far. At this point, she's used the ZTR several times, both mowing and pulling stuff around, and has done well. You can see the improvement in her ability to turn and control the machine every time she uses it. Keep in mind, this is a homeowner duty machine, not a JD Ztrak. No issues bouncing out of the seat yet.

I was originally considering buying a garden tractor, but I think she's short enough that she'll struggle to reach the pedals and stay on the seat, so that idea is on hold for now. Although, the 800 hour 318 that popped up for sale last night has me thinking...
That is the problem my kids have. Well my oldest can reach fine now but it is a stretch for my youngest to keep the seat switch active. That was the nice thing about the older 318 generation with the dash mounted forward/reverse controls.

That said I do like foot controls for everything else as it keeps your hands free to run the hydraulics.
 

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Was working at home and my wife was going through some old photos. 3 yo on the craftsman and 7 on the 400 practicing driving hauling bricks.:laugh:
 

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When I was a child my folks had two acres in the suburbs and dad was not a car guy, tractor guy or tool guy.
He had a push mower and when my brother and I could manage to push the son of a gun with our hands up over our head the job was all ours.
Mercifully he bought a Scrapsman rider after a couple summers of that.
I was always a very small guy, so I probably looked 6 years old when I was 10 and out front cutting to the passers by.
I don't think the gage for equipment operation is age as much as acumen and strength.
 
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