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Sound the Alarm! Teach Your Child How to Get Emergency Help

Kids are amazing.

I mean, aren’t you just blown away by all the things they manage to store inside those little brains?

Think about it:

  • Your little girl knows the names of each kid in her preschool class
  • She can probably recall every single Daniel Tiger jingle every created.
  • There’s no doubt she remembers that special dessert you promised yesterday.

She knows how to zip a zipper, unlock the front door, and she can suddenly ride a scooter down your street as though she’s been doing it her entire life.

Even with all this in mind, sometimes it’s easy to forget to add vitally important safety information into that steel trap of knowledge. When it comes to emergency situations, we can’t afford to push this one to the back burner, especially if you stay home alone with your kids all day.

Emergencies happen, friend. Does your child have enough safety knowledge and confidence to help if something scary were to happen?

It’s time to give her the safety tools she needs to confidently sound the alarm should an emergency situation ever arise.

Safety for Kids:
Teach Her What an Emergency is

Kids are sponges. They want to learn from us. They’re curious and questioning. Most importantly: they’re listening!

This works to our advantage when it comes to safety for kids. The more we talk about it, the more they will remember .

So, for starters, make sure she knows what an emergency actually is. This means you need to whittle the definition down to something really simple. Something like…“An emergency means someone needs help fast.

Use a really good book to help bring this emergency definition to life. It gives examples of various types of emergencies and identifies “safe people” who will help during those situations. Additionally, this cool emergency vehicle set or a great puzzle like this one will help foster informal conversations around the same things.

You can also personalize emergency situations like this:

  • Mommy looks like she is sleeping, but you can’t wake her up.
  • There is a fire in our house somewhere other than the fireplace.
  • A piece of furniture falls over on your brother, and you can’t move it.
  • Your little brother is choking on a piece of food and looks like he is having trouble breathing.

You can empower your kids without scaring them. Make her feel confident in her abilities and knowledge by saying things like, “If you feel like you need help, you’re probably right! I’m sure you’ll do the right thing!”

The more we talk to our kids about potential situations, the better prepared  and calm they will be should they ever be actually faced with one.

Teach Him Personal Information

In addition to knowing what exactly an “emergency” is, your child also needs to know some basic information about himself. Think about everything he would have to tell a 911 operator and then teach it to him!

Safety for Kids: Teach Him Names

First, make sure he knows his first and last name.

Then make sure he knows the first and last names of the parents, guardians, or care providers that he spends significant amounts of time with. Say things like, “Mom’s first name is Molly” or “Did you know Grandma’s first name is actually Cheryl?”

As an added bonus, once you teach him this, he’ll probably start calling you by your first name and then laughing hysterically about it for awhile. Consider it good practice. 😉

Safety for Kids: Teach Him Phone Numbers

It’s also important that your child knows your phone number (area code included).

There are many ways you could go about teaching this, but in my experience, putting it to a rhythm or a song will help it stick best.

My kids sing our phone number to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” but “Frere Jacques” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” works as well.

Here’s an article that has some great examples of ways you can put  your phone number to music. I would just suggest making sure you focus on the numbers more than the words.

Do you have a mover more than a singer? Here are some teaching tips that incorporate gross motor activities.

Safety for Kids: Teach Your Address

Rhythm and music will probably work well here too. We actually use “London Bridge is Fallling Down” for this one too, but I’m willing to bet you could arrange any nursery rhyme to serve your purpose.

In addition to teaching the actual address, though, it’s also important to help your child physically know where your home is. He should be able to recognize your street and which house is yours.

You can teach this geo-location in a variety of informal ways:

  • Point out specific street landmarks while you’re on a walk.
  • Talk about neighbors while you pass individual houses and who could help them if need be.
  • When you drive home from the store, verbally navigate, and tell him when you turn on your street.
  • Let him lead! Ask him to take you home as you near the end of your walk.

Finally, as far as all of the above are concerned, pronunciation is key. It’s one thing for your child to know his address; it’s arguably more important that he can say it so someone else can understand him. Rhythms and beats are good teaching tools, but eventually try to remove them, so all that is left is a clear, spoken pronunciation.

Teach Her How to Dial 911

She has the head knowledge now: She knows what an emergency is and all important personal information. She’s ready to sound the alarm should an emergency situation arise.

Next step? The phone.

Now you have to teach her to dial 911. And it’s likely that she’ll have to make that call on your cell phone.

I’m going to be honest: This is the step that keeps me up at night.

When I learned how to dial 911, all I had to do was pick up the phone and push three buttons. Today, my daughter would need to push at least seven, and that’s if she can open up the “Emergency” call feature on the first try.

But then I remember how quickly she can navigate through the apps on my phone already (She can finish an episode of Daniel Tiger, make her way to my photo album, and swipe through at her own leisure.)

She’s more than capable of making an important phone call. I just have to teach her how.

And in my own quest to do that, here are some resources I have found particularly helpful:

  • For starters, she needs to know her numbers. You can’t go wrong with something simple like this brightly colored puzzle or this set of wooden number magnets.
  • I find books to be particularly helpful teaching tools. Time to Call 911 and Impatient Pamela Says: Learn to Call 911 are both interactive options which will help kids understand the entire process of dialing 911.
  • DialSafe Pro is a free app you can download to your phone in which kids can practice dialing 911 (although it’s worth noting that the practice screen looks much different than your phone’s own keypad). The shining star of this app is that it lets kids have a practice conversation with a mock operator who answers the “call” by saying, “911, what’s the emergency?” and then carries on the conversation while leaving pauses for practice responses.
  • Blank Children’s Hospital (yes, that’s not a typo!) in Des Moines, Iowa put together a great resource with tips for teaching kids to dial 911 on a cell phone specifically. It has made me particularly mindful to make sure keep my phone in a place my kids can reach and find easily.

There’s no one way to teach these phone concepts. You know your child and how she learns best.

Just remember, the key here (and with any parenting, actually) is consistency. Don’t show her your phone once and expect it to stick. Return to the skill and the conversation as frequently as possible until you’re sure she’s really got it.

Also, remember the key word here is practice. Don’t actually send the call through, or you’ll likely have some serious follow-up conversations with a dispatcher and/or police officer.

Sound the Alarm!
Start Teaching Today

It’s easy to push this one to the back burner. You know, tell yourself, “Nothing bad is going to happen to us” and then hope you’re right. That’s the thing about emergencies though: nobody plans for them. Your kids just have to be ready…in case.

I’m guessing this mom is thankful she didn’t put these lessons off.

So start today.

    • Have a simple conversation about where firetrucks and ambulances are going when their sirens are blaring.
    • Sing a fun snack-time song to learn your address.
    • Pull out your phone and teach her how to get to your keypad.

And then, in no time at all, she’ll have it. Just like that scooter she suddenly rides so well. Of course, it’s really not too surprising she picked up on all this. You already know how amazing she is!

Have you started teaching your kids about how to call for help? What worked for your family? 


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