Your child might act like he has never met a stranger, striking up a conversation with anyone who pays him the slightest attention. While many of the people he meets might mean him no harm and find his friendliness adorable, there are those he should be wary of. Enjoyable activities might help him distinguish between friends and strangers, and protect him from those who could harm him.
Children enjoy making up stories, so challenge your child to make up a story about meeting a stranger and how to appropriately respond. Start the story by saying, “I went to the park and was swinging on the swing when someone I don’t know walks up to the swings. What happened next?” Your child can provide the next several sentences before passing the story back to you or the next family member. When the narrator asks, “What happened next?” it's time to pass the story along. Your child can write a stranger story using a rebus, a story where pictures take the place of words in the sentence. For another alternative, have your child create the story using rhymes, such as, “I went to the park and I saw a lark. He said, ‘Avoid danger. Don’t talk to the stranger.’”
Explain to your child, “Anyone you don’t know is a stranger. Make me a collage that shows strangers in one group and people you know in another group.” Provide pictures of family and friends, as well as pictures of people he doesn’t know from magazines or newspapers. He can see that the number of people he doesn’t know is larger than the number of people he does know. Alternatively, provide a face picture of a stranger. He can change the hair, eye color, clothing and body shape using a clear plastic sheet placed over the picture and water-based markers to draw in the changing features. With each change ask, “Do you know this person? If not, should you talk to him, go with him, trust him with your bike?”
Role-play meeting a stranger and how you want your child to respond. Switch roles so that you are the stranger and let your child demonstrate appropriate responses. Change your voice, hair, dress and walk to make your stranger role more realistic. Let your child play the parent with a favorite toy or stuffed animal standing in as the child. Challenge your child to decide how to respond to a strange adult talking to the child. Alternatively, use puppets to dramatize a story about strangers.
Challenge your child to observe a stranger and describe hair color, eye color, clothing and other physical features. Compare your child’s description to the description told by another observer. Make note of how two people might describe the same person differently. Check the newspaper for stories about strangers, both stories of good people and bad ones. Have your child try to match the person with their story. The objective is to help your child see that you can’t judge people’s actions by their appearance.
- 1001 Activities for a Smarter Child; Publications International Inc.
- National Crime Prevention Council: Strangers: Grades K - 1
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images