Although your young, pre-reading-age children likely aren't out in traffic or swimming on their own, it's still important to teach them basic safety signs. Even the youngest children grasp that certain signs or sounds are routinely used to signal expected behaviors: if a parent puts his finger to his lips while he's on the phone, a child knows she's supposed to be quiet. Preschoolers learn the signs their teacher uses to share important information: standing with her arms parallel and straight ahead of her means "line up," while three crisp hand claps tell them to stop what they're doing and pay attention to the teacher. Use repetition, games and your daily routines to teach your children other important safety signs.
Young children and other non-readers can easily learn a few essential signs to help them stay safe when they're playing or walking outside. Point out the red, eight-sided stop sign to your child each time you're stopped at a corner and stress that it means that cars, bikes and people have to stop when they see that sign. Show your youngster the double broken line when you're walking near a school together and explain that it's there to identify a safe place to walk across the street when there are no cars coming.
The green-yellow-red system of traffic lights is simple for non-reading children to learn, as long as they have learned at least their basic colors. Focus on the green and red lights, since those are critical to their understanding. Teach them that "green means go" and repeat the hard "g" sound at the beginning of both words to help them make that connection. "Red means stop" is the second half of the equation. A fun and easy way to reinforce the red/green concept is using it when you're out on walks or bike rides together. Allow your child to get a short distance ahead of you, then call out "red light!," signalling her to stop. When it's okay for her to move again, call out "green light!"
While it's always the best policy to keep dangerous substances, such as cleaning materials, out of children's reach, do teach them the "icky face" and skull drawing use on containers of potentially poisonous materials. Mr. Yuk is a frowning face, often with its tongue sticking out, used to teach very young children not to touch or ingest whatever is in the container on which it's displayed. It is typically portrayed in bright red or a neon color to catch kids' attention. The outline of the skull, usually in black, is readily identified by non-readers as something bad or scary that should be left alone.
Sound and Light Show
Tell your non-reading children that, in certain circumstances, sounds are used to give important safety information. Most kids have seen or heard a fire truck or ambulance and know that if its lights are flashing and the siren is sounding, it means there is an emergency somewhere and everyone needs to get out of the way. If they are swimming and they hear a whistle, remind them to pay attention to the lifeguard. In bad weather, if they hear thunder and see lightning, remind them to come inside right away. And if you're in a tornado zone, practice drills with them so they know where to go in case the tornado siren goes off.
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