Keeping Children Safe: Emotionally, Socially, and Physically Children Learn Better When They Feel Safe

Information compiled by Linda N. Stuhlman, Early Education and Care Consultant for Parent Workshop

All humans have a basic need to feel safe and secure. It is the role of adults, particularly parents and teachers, to teach children about safety. Preschoolers are not developmentally ready to be responsible for their own safety and need adult guidance. Once a child feels protected by the adults in their lives, a child will learn to listen to the adults. At about age 7, children have developed enough logic to really understand basic safety rules. As logic continues to develop, children can become more responsible for their well-being. Using stranger-danger techniques to teach is not logical for children. It is your job to protect children from strangers.

Protecting Your Child Emotionally:

  • Provide for basic needs of food, water, shelter
  • Recognize and allow for normal emotional development: Infants: bonding/attachment, trust, exploring the world; Toddlers: autonomy/independence; self-help frustration, testing limits; Preschoolers; initiative, self-regulation, learning to get along with others, development of imagination
  • Let children know that it is your job to keep them safe
  • Set reasonable limits on behavior Use age-appropriate simple rules.
  • Teach children to identify their emotions.

Protecting Your Child Socially:

  • Teach children to use their words.
  • Provide experiences with other children and adults.
  • Teach how to play with others.
  • Encourage problem solving.
  • Teach manners, morals of kindness and friendliness.
  • Help your child handle aggression by others.
    • Boost your child’s social skills to feeling of competency
    • Empower with words to speak up, assertive skills
    • Help your child have empathy
    • Know when to step in and when to let child handle
    • Help your child know the difference between tattling and reporting
    • Let your children know who they can report to

Protecting Your Child Physically:

The leading health risk facing children is from injuries. Learn first aid and CPR. Post Important Emergency Numbers. Have an emergency plan. Use example, teachable moments, and literature to teach safety. Teach that rules and laws protect us. The following are some pointers for discussion but visit the websites listed below for more detailed information on physical safety.

Animals – Avoid bites by showing children to keep their hands to their sides.. Teach to use gentle touches.

Cars, car seats, parking lots – Check car seat installation safety. The middle of the backseat is the safest spot. Turn the engine of your car off when not driving. Use the rule that you must be touching the car or parent when in a parking lot.

Food – Watch for choking, pesticides, containers, temperatures

Fire – Plan an outside meeting place, mark children’s windows, change smoke alarm batteries, have a carbon monoxide detector. Visit the fire department.

Health – Complete immunizations; do well child physicals and dental visits.

Homes – Establish rules: Where are children allowed to be? What are they allowed to do? Check hot water temperature, lead, radon, protected windows, cleaning products, lighting, hand rails, non-slip tub mats, cooking hazards. Use locks and gates.

Medicines – Check safety locks on cabinets. Adults should be in charge.

Playgrounds – Check for hazards. Establish rules.

Playdates – heck on supervision, guns? pool? movies? computer? who at home?

Pools and Water – Use swimming lessons and a very watchful eye. You should be able to touch your child when he/she is next to water.

Riding toys – Helmets should be properly worn. Establish where it is safe to ride.

SexualAbuse – Most often is by relative or trusted family friend.

Toys – Watch for lead, choking hazards, developmentally appropriate.

Yards – Determine physical parameters. Teach children to get an adult if anything comes into their space and to not eat outside plants or berries.

When to Worry about Children and Safety
(See Parent Resource and Information Guide for where to get help)

  • Children who are overly curious and want to play with fire, knives, etc
  • Children who run out of house or who hide
  • Children who plan to hurt or destroy. Are cruel to animals
  • Children who are either too aggressive or too passive
  • Safety concerns occur across settings: home, school, with friends
  • Safety concerns get in the way of learning new skills


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