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Safety Smart

By Melissa Morgan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #86, 2009.

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Melissa Morgan


The toddler dialed 911 when his mom didn’t wake up. The girl didn’t touch the broken BB gun she found in her yard, but ran and told her parents. The terrific two-year-old remembered not to cross the street without a grown-up.

These children are safety smart, but what can you do with a “kamikaze kid”? Turn your back for an instant, and your kamikaze kid is exploring a light bulb, playing in the street, or climbing the kitchen cabinets.

In addition to growing eyes in the back of our heads, we can make our child’s environment safer, starting with the biggest danger. “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional deaths to children. . . . In the U.S. in 1998, 47% of the children under age five that died in motor vehicle crashes were not restrained. Booster seats are also an important, but little used, protection for children riding in cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends booster seats for children weighing between 40 and 80 pounds.”—National MCH Center for Child Death Review, childdeathreview.org/causesMV.htm. Yes, an older child may feel a bit embarrassed by a booster seat, but it is better than the alternative.

Although child restraints are essential, depending on where you live, your child may be in more danger from drowning. “Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under five in Florida, Arizona, and California with a ranking of number two for over a dozen other states.”—Foundation for Aquatic Injury Prevention, aquaticisf.org/pool-safety.htm.

We can’t let our kids play alone near water or ride in the car without seat belts; we must take disciplinary measures if they don’t obey. Simple, clear rules and calm, logical, safe consequences help cure dangerous and unpleasant behavior problems . . . but first, we need to get our children to listen to us. Books such as Dr. James Dobson’s The New Strong-Willed Child can help. An attitude of respect for parents helps keep kids safe.

How can you find out if your child is learning about safety? It probably isn’t necessary to purchase a safety curriculum. No need for expensive or complicated tests. We can keep track of our child’s learning and write down our safety learning goals.

Kids remember rules best when they are simple and few. Kids should learn not to touch anything that doesn’t belong to them without first asking an adult. Of course, they will learn not to touch a hot stove, electrical appliance, or medicines. You will want to add additional goals, depending on your situation. For instance, if you live near the ocean, your may have different safety concerns than a family living in the mountains.

If you wish, you could try A Beka’s inexpensive Health, Safety and Manners Series or Trend Enterprises’ Personal Safety flash cards, which teach how to handle life-threatening situations. The cards ask “What If?” and give three possible answers. You could also play a “What If” game together, without the cards.

  • What if you got lost at the mall? How can you get help to find your family?
  • What if the fire alarms go off in your house? What about fire alarms when you are somewhere else?
  • What if your friend wants you to go swimming, but there are no grownups watching?
  • What should you do if you find a gun?

About half of all American households contain guns. Maybe your family always keeps guns secure. What about when your child is at someone else’s home? Teach your kids, “STOP! Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.” Find free gun safety information, such as the “Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program,” at National Rifle Association (nrahq.org/safety/eddie/infoparents.asp or call 800-231-0752).

Talk about how to dial 911 and model how to talk to policemen in an emergency. Read interactive storybooks together, such as Safe at Play: Outdoor Safety, I Can Be Safe: A First Look at Safety (First Look at...Series), The Safety Book for Active Kids: Teaching Your Child How to Avoid Everyday Dangers and It’s Time to Call 911: What to Do in an Emergency. In What to Do in an Emergency, your child dials 911, and is rewarded by sirens and “Good job!” The book also helps parents teach their child their name and telephone number, and other essential information such as how to recognize an emergency.

The CD-ROM software resource What’s the Safest Thing To Do? explores safety issues such as drowning prevention, poison control, stranger awareness, firearms safety, drug and alcohol prevention, and fire prevention with a “guardian angel,” Betsy The Butterfly. Videos such as Danger Rangers #3: Mission 547: Safety Rules! and Safety Awareness DVD discuss dangerous household products, using electricity safely, fire safety planning and tips for basic safety practices in all kinds of situations. Visit dangerrangers.com for free games and a free Kid’s Club registration.

Check out free resources from the Federal Citizen Information Center, here, such as Life Advice About Protecting Your Child. Read safety rules for children together with your kids. Remind children of rules such as “If you get separated from your parents in a public place, go to a checkout counter, security office, or lost and found area. Tell the person in charge that you need help finding your parents.”

Find more free safety resources, activity guides, games and safety posters (“Safety Rangers Say No To Dangers”) at coderedrover.org. The downloadable poster offers bright colored pictures, safety rules, and lines on it. Use the extra lines to help your child write more safety rules.

Order free safety booklets, such as Aunt Sarah and the Amazing Power (Electricity and Natural Gas), for Grades K-2, at Pacific Gas and Electric, pge.com/myhome/edusafety/gaselectricsafety. I recommend “The Safety Corner.”

What about products that should be safe, such as toys and food, but are dangerous or toxic? Find the latest information on product safety recalls at Consumer Product Safety Commission, cpsc.gov.

We can also incorporate safety into handwriting practice, unit studies, and field trips. Find home, fire, bike, street, and travel safety rules that you could copy for handwriting practice at americansafetyzone.com or safety.com. Order free posters, doorknob fire safety hanger, activity guides and other fun things for free from FEMA (800-480-2520 or FEMA, P.O. Box 2012, Jessup MD 20794-2012). Print out a free mini unit study on safety at easyfunschool.com/article1105.html. Explore activities, such as making a family safety video and performing a home safety inspection.

A free downloadable activity guide at smokeybear.com/resources/Activity.pdf teaches children not to play with matches. Read the too cute but true story of Smokey the Orphan Bear, smokeybear.com/vault/story_main.asp.

Use toys, dolls, stuffed animals, and action figures to act out how to safely deal with dangerous situations, such as staying away from electric lines, strange animals, and thin ice. Use a play phone or old, nonfunctioning cell phone, to practice calling 911 with your young child. Find child-size, age-appropriate tools and work gloves and model safe work habits. Your homeschool child can have a great time learning to be a safety smart kid!

Melissa L. Morgan is the co-author of Educational Travel on a Shoestring and Homeschooling on a Shoestring. With her husband, Hugh, she has homeschooled their three children from birth, taking advantage of many educational opportunities in the real world. She invites you to visit her website at www.eaglesnesthome.com.


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