Through these fun and practical activities, children gain a deeper understanding and respect for safety precautions. A major plus in a safety focus is that children have to listen, communicate, and cooperate — all essential social-interaction skills! Best of all, these activities are just plain fun because they invite children to think critically and play creatively.
Introduce the safety activities with cooperative problem solving, discussion, and sharing. A good way to get children talking about safety is to fill a bag with safety props, such as a toy stop sign, a toy telephone, sunscreen, and a garbage bag. Take each object out one at a time for discussion. You might ask, "Why do we need this?" "How does it help us?" "What can we do with this object to keep us safe?" Children might say that they use the sunscreen to protect their skin in the sun, the stop sign to keep cars from bumping into each other, the telephone to call 911 for help, and the garbage bag to pick up litter. Use this activity to get children talking about safety. Then throughout the year use a prop to introduce one of the following safety activities. Children will already have experience with the prop and topic and can draw on their previous knowledge.
Using the Activities
As children participate in the safety activities, they learn how to identify problems and communicate their ideas and feelings about potentially dangerous situations. They learn how to think through problems and create solutions. As they physically act out the role of a safety helper or work through a safety procedure (such as stop, drop, and roll), they learn how to use their bodies and minds in emergencies. Of course, just talking about safety also helps children deal with fears and emotions related to this important topic.
While introducing and engaging children in the safety activities, be sure to allow plenty of time for them to share their thoughts and feelings about all the ideas the activities inspire. Slow down, listen carefully, and watch learning blossom!
Expanding the Experience
Take the time to look at ways to expand an activity with variations on fun and learning. When you expand children's experience with an activity, you ask them to take their knowledge and understanding from one situation and apply it to a new one, which deepens their understanding. In addition, you are helping children see how to use this information in a meaningful way.
Here are a few new ideas to go with each of the Safety Activities:
• The Stop, Drop, and Roll routine is important for young children to learn. Be sure to remind children to cover their faces when they are rolling to protect their eyes. Smoke is also a big problem in a fire. Teach children how to "Stay Low and Go" in a fire. Use a red chalk circle to designate an area of the play yard as the fire. Put on music and invite children to move around. On your signal (a bell or shouting FIRE), ask children to "fall and crawl" out of the fire area.
• Children can extend the role-playing started in Firefighter Friends by creating some pretend fire scenes in the block area that they can put out. Children might construct buildings and then stuff them with crinkly red cellophane or tissue paper to create a fire. Provide paper towel tubes that they can use as hoses!
• One of the first things that children learn to read is a sign. After using the Playing with Environmental Print activity in the block area, take it outside. Children will enjoy making signs to go with their trikes and wagons.
• Every safety worker uses some sort of prop or tool. A great way to expand the Guess Who? activity is to play a matching game in which children match the tool to the worker. For example, show children a real fire hat and ask, "Who uses this?" Include less traditional workers and their tools, such as a janitor and a broom.
• It is important to practice the information children gain in the It's an Emergency! activity. This is a perfect time to teach children important phone skills they'll need in a real emergency. When a dispatcher answers a 911 call, the child needs to be able to give his name and address. Let children practice names and addresses during group time. Call attendance and ask children to respond with their full names and addresses. Use dramatic-play phones or discarded real phones for children to practice dialing 911 and any other important help number.
• Once children have experienced the safety materials in and around the school in the Hop on the Safety Train activity, you can take the train for a spin around the neighborhood. Use the same "Where is ..." song to ask children to find safety devices and people in the area. For example, they might find a stop sign, traffic light, police officer, or even a street sign.
• You can extend the Car and Bus Safety activity by bringing more appliance boxes to the play yard and asking children what other vehicles they would like to make with them. Don't forget to sing a few rounds of "The Wheels on the Bus" and change the lyrics to fit each of the vehicles.
• Once the classroom is neat after the Time to Tidy-Up activity, it's time to take the tidying outside. Invite children to discuss the special dangers of trash left in play areas. What could happen if something is left at the bottom of the slide? Ask children to create special trash bags for the playground and have a tidy-up time before each play session.
• Stress the importance of Sun Safety after this initial activity by involving children in a sun versus shade investigation. Take a walk around the play yard to see if there is enough shade. Then bring out some rope and a collection of old sheets (ask parents to lend them). Invite children to brainstorm how to use the materials to create shady areas or "shade tents." Children may also like to watch how the sun moves throughout the day. Where is it shady in the morning and in the afternoon?
- Small cars, trucks, and other vehicles
- Street and safety signs
- Toy people and animals
- Trikes, wagons, and other riding toys
- Toy telephone
- Art materials
- Old sheets
- Problem solving
- Social interaction
- Cooperative play
- Sharing language
- Gross motor coordination
- Fine motor coordination
- Creative expression
- Creative thinking
- 50 Fun and Easy Brain-Based Activities for Young Learners by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)
- 1-2-3 Cames by Jean Warren (Warren Publishing House)
- Great Big Book of Songs, Rhymes and Cheers, by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)
- Play Together, Grow Together by Don Adcock and Marilyn Segal (Mailman Family Press)
- Start Smart by Pam Schiller (Gryphon House)