Keep the kids out of the cabinets and keep the household cleaners in. Cabinets with poisonous substances should be up high and latched or locked. When Junior learns to clean the bathroom, stress how important it is not to mix bleach and ammonia. Post the number for Poison Control next to the phone.
Fido might know not to bite Junior, but does he know not to bite Sally the neighbor kid? Does Sally’s dog know not to bite your kid? Worse yet, does Junior or Sally know what to do when the dog is a stray wandering through the park? Dogs bite kids—a lot. Dogs bite kids in the summertime even more, probably because the kids are out of school and the dogs are hot and cranky. Teach Junior what to do when dogs approach.
Keep the life jackets on and make sure the kids don’t swim alone. Teach kids to watch out for rip currents; if stuck in one, they should swim parallel to the shore to get out. Have a pool? If so, there needs to be a fence around it or a safety cover on it.
Can kids do CPR? The answer to that is different for every child. There’s no question that kids can learn CPR, and there’s no question that in true cardiac arrest, doing nothing is certain death. If you are going to teach the kids CPR, it’s extremely important to stress not practicing on each other. Only practice on mannequins, as pushing on real chests can lead to serious injuries.
When the smoke alarms start beeping at 3 in the morning, you really must have a plan. It’s not enough that the kids wake up—they have to know where to go. If they have fire escape ladders in their rooms, do they know how to deploy the ladders? Do you plan to meet at the street corner? What if the kids get out at the back of the house and you get out at the front? All of these issues need to be decided in advance.
If the kids catch their clothes on fire, they need to put them out immediately. Teach them how to stop, drop, and roll. If outdoors, this is something that works better on grass than it does on concrete. If indoors, it’s better to do this on a hard surface than a carpet, where the risk of setting the home on fire is higher. Have the kids practice, so they’ll do this automatically if they need to.
Pressure on a bleeding wound is usually enough to stop the flow of blood. Kids can be taught very early to put direct pressure on a cut. You don’t want Jimmy to wrap his shoestrings around his baby sis’s neck, so tell him not to do tourniquets.
Teaching kids about safety starts from the first time we tell them “no” as they’re reaching for the hot stove. There’s no reason to stop there. Kids have an incredible capacity to learn, so teach them how to be safe and how to react when emergencies happen.
As soon as kids can recognize the numbers, they can learn to call 911. It’s important to teach them that 911 is not a toy. Otherwise, you could find yourself talking to a police officer about why Junior was screaming, “My house is on fire!” at the dispatcher. And if the kids are carrying cell phones, they need to know how calling with the cell phone is different than the home phone.