No one wants to talk with children about the threat strangers can pose. Keep the conversation light by initiating a non-threatening, age-appropriate discussion of some basic safety principles. Then, try role-play, games, or an art project to expand the conversation.
Start with the basics:
- A stranger is simply someone you don’t know. Strangers aren’t always bad, and it’s hard to tell if someone is a good stranger or a bad stranger just by looking at them. Help your kids identify which strangers they can trust, like a police officer or a store clerk.
- Good strangers will not ask a kid for help. Teach kids about danger signs like an adult asking for directions or asking for help in searching for a lost pet.
- It’s okay to say “no,” and even to be rude! While children are taught from an early age to obey adults, explain that it’s okay – and they won’t get in trouble – for saying “NO!” if they feel uncomfortable.
- Identify safe places where kids can go if they need help, and teach them how to get there. Think about neighbors’ houses, schools, businesses, restaurants, and of course, fire and police stations.
- Play in groups. Kids are safer and less of a target when they are with other children. Tell your child never to enter an isolated area, like an empty lot or field alone. Make sure they have a “buddy” or two when walking home from school or practice.
Then, get back to the fun stuff with one of these activities designed to spark conversation:
- Practice conversations that might occur between strangers and your children. Act out the role of the stranger, using different tactics and guiding your child in appropriate responses.
- Help children identify strangers they can trust by acting out similar scenarios using costumes. Have your child play the role of the police officer, fire chief, or teacher, then borrow some elements of their costume when it’s your turn.
2) Arts and Crafts
- Make puppets from popsicle sticks, fabric scraps, construction paper, glue, and markers. Use them to teach the “buddy system” or to role-play situations.
- Teach kids their name, address, and telephone number – critical if they become separated from you or need to ask for help – using crayons and a Kids Coloring Pad or Storytelling Paper Pad.
- Flashcards cut from newspapers, magazines, and photos of family and friends can help reinforce with younger children the difference between strangers and people they know.
What play based ways have you found to help kids understand important safety lessons? Share your ideas with us on Instagram using the hashtags #TakeBackChildhood, #CountlessWaysToPlay and #MelissaAndDoug