Let’s talk about how to introduce toddlers and preschoolers to fire drills and fire safety. Toddlers and preschoolers aren’t too young to start learning safety practices, we just have to be careful not to describe fires so graphically that we terrify the children.
Following are nine ideas to introduce fire safety to your little ones in a fun but educational way.
9 Ways to Introduce Fire Safety to Toddlers and Preschoolers
1. Talk When Kids Are Calm: Find a time to visit when your child is calm, fed, and interested. Connect the talk to something concrete or relevant: light a candle, talk about the fire engine passing by, point out the sound of a siren. If, during your talk, your child becomes too emotional, address her fears in an honest and comforting way and continue the conversation some other time.
2. Tour Fire Station: Most (if not all) fire stations welcome tours by families or groups. Just give them the courtesy of an advance phone call. Make sure that the person who gives the tour knows your child is young and that you are introducing the concept of fire safety. At the station, you will likely be shown the inside and outside of a fire truck, and you may even be able to talk a firefighter into sliding down an old pole. Take a camera!
3. Stop, Drop, & Roll Games: We all remember the saying “stop, drop, and roll” in case we see fire on our clothes. Help your child learn the phrase by turning it into a game. In our version, we run around and act silly until I say “stop!” I say “drop!” and we drop to the ground, and then I say “roll!” and we roll all over the place.
4. Practice Going to a Meeting Spot: Talk about the importance of getting out of the house if there is a fire. Choose a spot away from your house where the family will meet in a fire emergency – then practice meeting there!
5. Read Some Books: Books are a great way to introduce concepts to little ones. Here is a list of books about fire stations, firefighters, and fire safety:
- Arthur’s Fire Drill
- Big Frank’s Fire Truck
- Curious George and the Firefighters
- Fire! Fire!
- Fire Engines
- Fire Fighter Piggywiggy
- Fire Safety/Seguridad en Caso de Incindiendo
6. Crawl Under the Smoke: Teach your children to stay safely under the smoke by making it into a game – see how low everyone can go as they crawl under pretend smoke. Or set up something for your children to crawl under (a blanket stretched between chairs) and pretend it is smoke.
7. Donate Stuffed Animals: Looking for a volunteer opportunity that your children can get involved in too? See if your local fire department has a program where the firefighters give stuffed animals to children who are involved in fires. Then let your children collect new and gently used stuffed animals to donate to the program (make sure gently used are acceptable donations).
8. Teach Basic Fire Safety: Show children items that are fire hazards and teach them that they are not for touching (at least not unless there is an adult helping). Teach children the basics of what to do in a fire (do not hide, check to make sure the door is not hot before opening it, go to a firefighter if you see one in the house, etc.).
9: Fire Drills: One expert says “Children do well when they have very clearly defined reactions prepared. Even if it means giving them specific words or phrases to use, make sure that they have a definite course of action in mind. Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. Talking about what to do is helpful, but nothing will ingrain it in your child’s head like actually doing it. Practicing how to react is the single most effective way to ensure your child will react safely if confronted with danger.”1 So make a plan, then practice it. Practice listening for the smoke detector (test it so they know what it sounds like), crawling under the smoke to get outside to your meeting place, feeling the doors, etc. Make it a game, but make sure they know the steps.
More Information on Fire Safety
Parents, make sure you are doing everything possible to keep your home safe and your family prepared in case of an emergency. Following are some websites that will help:
- Fire Safety Basics
- Parents’ Guide to Fire Safety with Babies and Toddlers (PDF)
- Step by Step Fire Drill
- More links and resources from the U.S. Fire Administration for Kids
This post has been edited from a previous version published at Code Name: Mama.