Teaching safety to young children without causing fear

We all want our children to stay safe, but for young children and toddlers, there’s sometimes a very difficult balance between teaching them how to stay safe and scaremongering. Our youngsters can be sensitive little souls, and at this important stage of social and emotional development, we really want to be able to make them aware of the dangers, without causing them to completely lose trust in the fascinating new world around them.

Safety often starts with simple rules and guidelines and we need to be able to convey these in a way that young children will understand and relate to.

“Because I told you to!” or “Because it just does!” may work for a short time, but it will not be long before a child begins to repeat your rule as their own, or simply ignore this empty and unexplained threat. No matter how young your child is, it pays dividends just to calmly, simply and firmly explain what you mean and why. Children can remember things you tell them, even if they do not fully understand them the first time they are explained. This is also a good time to tell them that you are not out to spoil their fun. Just to make sure the fun is safe.

Scare tactics are also inadvisable… “Don’t play on the stairs. You’ll break your neck and be paralysed!” or “Don’t touch the scissors, you will poke your eye out!”… This sort of reaction from stressed and cautious parents is a common one (they are only trying to avoid accidents) but, unfortunately, it’s also rash and ineffective. “Stairs are for going up and down. The play mat is for playing,” is actually a far more positive, effective statement.

Well as we know, children learn best when they are having fun! Roleplay games and fun quizzes can be a great way to start getting your little one to learn some vital safety tips that they will enjoy and most importantly, remember.

Scenarios for practice play (You can include some favourite toys or dolls)

  • What do you do if the smoke alarm goes off, or you think there is a fire?
  • What would you and Teddy do if someone other than Mummy/Daddy came to collect you from the centre?
  • What should Dolly say if a friend asked her to do something dangerous?
  • What should we do if we break an ornament or glass on the floor?
  • What should Teddy do if his ball rolls into the road?
  • What would you and Dolly do if you lost Mummy/Daddy in the shop?
  • What should Dolly, Teddy and you do if a stranger says hello?

This game is a helpful safety scenario test to see how your child may react, and to practice the best things to do. You can make it as fun as you like, even base it around their favourite toy or character and you can use dangers they may face depending on certain circumstances, as long as you take some time to practice together.

As with most lessons in life, safety is closely linked with other developmental milestones. As your child begins to trust your judgement and their own, and as their social and emotional skills flourish, they will begin to listen and respect your advice. They will soon begin to learn from their educators and friends, and from observing others, but you are their first and most influential teacher!

Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning & Childcare in NSW, base their curriculum on fun and creative activity-based learning. They know that children learn best when they are having fun, and that the developing young brain absorbs more at this age than any other!