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,
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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,
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.