I loved the age when I could plop my baby in a pack ‘n play, surrounded by age-appropriate toys and books, and I knew they’d be safe for a few minutes if I stepped away. Any parent knows once those babies start moving, protecting them—even from themselves—becomes exponentially more difficult. Of course we can’t keep little ones babies forever, and it’s a joy to watch them grow and become little people. As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach them how to keep themselves safe when they’re becoming more independent whether at home, at school, or in the neighborhood.
First, there’s risk mitigation and protection for what you can control. Are they wearing their helmet correctly every time they get on their bike or scooter? Are they properly buckled in their car seat? Then there’s preparation and practice for things that are out of your control, like teaching them to look both ways before crossing a street, or knowing what to do if they find themselves in deep water where their feet can’t touch the bottom.
Worrying about our kids’ safety nags at every parent, but equipping kids with skills for certain emergency situations can help. Here, we’re sharing five in-case-of-emergency lessons to teach your kids when they’re little.
Maybe your little one is confident in the water, but drifts a little too deep where they can’t touch. Maybe they’re so excited to be visiting a pool on vacation or at a friend’s house, and they jump in before you’ve put their floaties on. You want your child to be prepared to respond if they find themselves in a dangerous water situation.
The best way to prepare children for water safety is to sign them up for swim lessons. Look for a swim school that first focuses on survival over technique, like the British Swim School.
British Swim School uses a survival-first approach, where certified instructors start by teaching kids basic survival skills before any swimming stroke techniques. The instructors want to ensure that swimmers have the necessary skills required, so if they were to accidentally fall into the water, they would be able to survive. This includes teaching them to float on their backs independently and practice safe entry and exit from the pool.
But this doesn’t mean instructors focus on fear in their training. Rather, British Swim School instructors use a gentle approach to make learning to swim fun and comfortable for your child, so they look forward to the next lesson. Parents are also welcomed in their classes with their kids up to 36-months-old.
2. What To Do If They Get Lost
Kids are naturally curious and can move quickly. So it’s no surprise that they sometimes wander away from parents or caregivers at the park, grocery store, or the zoo—especially if the adult involved is in charge of more than one child. Multiple moms I spoke to about this told me they tell their little ones to find a mom with kids to help them if they get lost. There’s comfort in knowing another mom will jump in to help, because they’d want someone to do the same for their child.
If you’re visiting somewhere with employees, you can also help kids recognize name tags or uniforms, noting people who work there who can help your little one find their way back to you.
3. How to Call 911 & Remember Their Parents’ Full Names/Address
With the absence of landlines in most houses, this generation of kids can learn how to call 911 on a cell phone if their caregiver becomes incapacitated—like in the case of a grandparent who has a fall while babysitting. Teach them how to use a cell phone in case of an emergency—which usually means they can do so without unlocking the cell phone. However, you want to remind them that 911 is ONLY used in case of an emergency.
But once they call 911, they’ll need to be able to relay certain information, like what’s happening, and potentially their full name, parent’s name(s), and their address. Practice this often and see if they can write it down—repetition is the key to them learning. You can also turn this into a memorization game so they’re more likely to retain the information.
4. Fire Safety Basics
First, reassure your children that the grownups in their house or firefighters will help keep them safe in case of a fire. Explain to them that it’s important not to hide if they see a fire or hear a smoke detector going off, so the grownups or firefighters can find them. Additionally, talk through the basics of fire safety in a way young children can understand, like:
- Some fires make smoke, which can make it hard to breathe. But smoke rises, so they should stay low and crawl to safety.
- If they find matches or a lighter, do not play with them. Give them to a grownup right away.
- Practice an escape plan to get out of the house, and determine and discuss a place to meet.
- Talk about the importance of smoke detectors and test them together.
- Practice stop, drop, and roll in the rare case their clothes catch fire.
5. What To Do If Someone They Don’t Know Approaches Them
While it’s true that unfortunately the majority of reported child sexual abuse happens from someone a child knows, it’s still important to teach children about tricky people they don’t know—or don’t know well—when it comes to keeping themselves safe. Talk about who their safe adults are; like teachers, neighbors, friend’s parents, and family members. And help them know what to do if an adult they don’t know approaches them:
- If someone approaches them that they don’t know, immediately find a safe adult.
- If someone they don’t know tries to touch or grab them, make a lot of noise, scream, yell, flail their body, etc.
- Don’t get in a car with someone they don’t know, even if they offer toys/candy, have a pet, or the person knows their name.
- Develop a family safe word.
- Don’t answer the door, instead find a grown up.
- Help them learn to listen to their gut. If something is making them feel weird, scared, and uncomfortable, tell a safe adult.
No parent wants to imagine the worst happening to their child, but giving kids some just-in-case preparation can help lessen your nagging worry and help build your child’s confidence, too.
This post was in partnership with British Swim School but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board. We only recommend brands we genuinely love.