Letting your children explore the world outside of your fence can be a nerve-wracking experience, with so many dangers to consider. However, you are not always going to be there to protect them, and it is important to teach them how to stay safe outside. Have frequent discussions with your kids about staying safe outside, and incorporate age-appropriate games and activities that further emphasize safety rules.
Traffic safety should be a priority as children start to walk to school, or want to play outdoors more independently. For very young children that need constant supervision, emphasize that they should never set foot off the curb without an adult. Practice crossing the street with your children by drawing a chalk street across your driveway. Stand on one side and pretend to be the traffic signal, indicating when it is okay for the kids to cross. Turn it into a game for older kids by giving points each time they cross safely, remembering to look left, right and then left again, and not crossing the intersection if the countdown has already started. You can also read a book on traffic safety with your kids, such as, "Watch Out for Banana Peels and Other Sesame Street Safety Tips," by Sarah Albee, which uses popular Sesame Street characters to teach road safety.
Teaching children how to avoid strangers is a crucial part of keeping them safe when they are outside without adult supervision. This is especially important for kids who are starting to walk to school or the bus stop on their own. Role play with your children a few scenarios of you being a stranger approaching them. Teach the kids to loudly say "No", and then to yell and run away from that person. You should also teach them not to go with an adult whom they might know, if your or your spouse have not told him explicitly that this adult would be picking him up. When your child is approached by a stranger, teach him to run toward a public space with lots of people. Have your spouse role-play as a police officer to emphasize that there are "safe strangers" that they can turn to for help. Discuss places that might be safe to get help, such as a nearby restaurant or store. "Stranger Danger," by Peggy Pancella is ideal for kids ages 5 and up to reinforce ways to stay safe.
Great Outdoors Safety
For the family that loves being in the great outdoors, hiking and camping, it is important for kids to learn how to prevent accidents and stay safe in a natural environment. Make it a rule that the kids have to wear bright colors, sneakers and a hat whenever you are going on a family hike. Make it fun for the kids by letting them pick out the clothes they are going to wear, seeing how bright they can get, no matter if they match or not. Emphasize the importance of staying on the trail to avoid poisonous plants like poison ivy. Discuss with your kids the important items needed to go on a hike to stay safe, cool and hydrated, and let them help pack a hiking pack with plenty of water and portable snacks like trail mix. For kids 10 and up, check out the book "Hiking and Backpacking," from the Wilderness Education Association, which teaches all about hiking, the necessary equipment and ways to stay safe.
It is also important for kids to learn how to be safe outdoors in all kinds of weather. In a very hot, summer environment, teach children the importance of not walking out the door without sunscreen and a hat, even if the sun is not out. You can talk to younger kids about sunburn and how painful it can be. For older kids, you might want to discuss skin cancer to help them really understand why hats and sunscreen are so important. In the winter, talk about why they must wear a warm hat, coat and gloves to protect themselves from the biting cold. One game you could play to emphasize this is "weather races." Have two kids stand in front of you and call out a season. The kids must run to their rooms and closest to get the most appropriate clothing on and race back to you. The child that gets back the fastest and is the most properly dressed wins the round. For kids ages 3 and up, "Moley Gets Dressed for All Weather," by Sue Hendra is an excellent aid in helping to teach the appropriate outdoor clothing for the weather.
- Education.com: Teaching Traffic Safety to Children
- PBS.org: Traffic Safety
- National Crime Prevention Council: What To Teach Kids About Strangers
- Appalachian Mountain Club: Outdoor Safety: Tips for Parents
- Watch Out for Banana Peels and Other Sesame Street Safety Tips; Sarah Albee
- Hiking and Backpacking; Wilderness Education Association
- Stranger Danger; Peggy Pancella
- IT Stock Free/Polka Dot/Getty Images