Tornado Drills with Toddlers

Written by Dionna on March 22nd, 2011

Family Safety
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Tornado season is upon us! Toddlers aren’t too young to start learning safety practices, we just have to be careful not to describe tornadoes so graphically that we terrify them. Following are some ideas I’ve found in my research to introduce tornado safety to your toddlers. 1

tornado funnel cloud

1. Introduce the Concept of Tornadoes During a Calm Moment: Don’t wait until the power goes out and the thunder is rolling to talk about severe weather. Choose a calm moment when your toddler is well-rested and feels safe.

Here’s what I recommend:
1) Find out when your city’s weekly siren tests are and try to be with your toddler during the next test. Make sure he hears the siren and talk about the fact that those sirens are to give us warnings (and keep us safe) when there is bad weather. Tell him that if we hear the sirens during bad weather, it means that we need to be safe.
2) A day or two later while you are at home, talk about weather (thunder, lightning, rain, tornadoes) in a way that makes it interesting – not scary. Then bring up the sirens and talk about what we do when we hear the sirens sound during bad weather (see below for more ideas).

2. Explain in Developmentally Appropriate Ways: Your toddler doesn’t need to hear about wind shear, updrafts and supercells. But she’ll probably be interested in where thunder and lightning come from, and you can introduce the concept of tornadoes by talking about big winds. Just be careful not to be too scary. There’s no need to scare her with details of a storm that will probably never touch her personally.

3. Make a Kit: You may or may not want to involve your toddler in making an emergency kit. 2 She might dwell on the “what if’s” of an emergency situation. On the other hand, it might make her feel more safe to know that if there is an emergency, you will be comfortable and secure because you are prepared.

4. Make a Plan: Talk about what you will do in case a tornado is ever in your area. Toddlers are reassured when there are concrete steps they can do: (for example) listen to mama and papa; hold an older sibling’s hand; go downstairs. Be sure to look at Ready America’s site for help in making your tornado emergency plan.

5. Do Some Tornado Drills: Grab your flashlights and have a drill. Eat some of the snacks from your emergency kit. Talk about how we get downstairs fast to stay safe.

Here are some more sites on family emergency plans during tornadoes.

Kid Info/Weather: Links to various kids’ sites on weather.

K-2 Tornado Activities for Educators (several activities can be adapted for toddlers/preschoolers)

Tornadoes: information on what they are, how they form, and more.

If you have any additional insight into teaching toddlers about tornado safety, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: gentrinity

This post has been edited from a version previously published at Code Name: Mama.

  1. If you live in another area of the country, I hope this post motivates you to start talking to your children about earthquakes, floods, or whatever other severe weather emergency graces your region.
  2. Ready America has a great website with advice on what to include in your family’s emergency kit.

About The Author: Dionna

Code Name: Mama CodeNameMama My NPN Posts

Dionna is co-founder of Natural Parents Network. She blogs about natural parenting and life with a toddler-almost-preschooler at Code Name: Mama. She also co-founded NursingFreedom.org, a site dedicated to normalizing breastfeeding anytime, anywhere.

3 Responses to Tornado Drills with Toddlers

  1. Maman A Droit  

    Great tips! I definitely need to put together an emergency kit, since we are Midwesterners too. I think we’re under a tornado watch as I type this!

  2. Momma Jorje

    Great point! We live in Tornado Alley. I don’t think my 18 month old is quite ready for these steps herself, but it will not be long!

  3. Annie

    nothing to add, but we didn’t do any prep ahead and last spring there were a few warnings that sent us to the basement–my little boy still thinks it was for giant tomatoes flying by. :)

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