No parent likes visiting the emergency room (guilt-fest).
But we don’t like being a safety nag either.
Here you’ll find fun games and tips, like ‘Safety Monster’ to help make safety issues feel fun in themselves.
The games and tips below will help your child to look after their own safety (whether you’re with them or not).
We’ll cover games for younger ones, even as young as two, right up to teens.
1. Safety Monster (and other characters)
For younger children you can pretend to be a bumbly Safety Monster who appears whenever there’s danger.
You can say in your best monster voice, “Safety Monster Check“, then pretend to trip over that truck in the middle of the floor (hopefully getting a giggle).
Safety Monster reminds me to show my children dangers, rather than just describe them verbally. So I might say in my monster voice, “Ooh, come and feel this table corner. Imagine if we fell over and hit our heads here. Yowsers me trousers.”
Your child can help Safety Monster avoid danger and this is an important part of taking away fear, by helping your child to feel more in control.
At first Safety Monster might need to give your child more clues and hints, like “Hmm, what can we do? Can you find a cushion to cover the table corner? Or shall we play over here instead?”
With practice, our children can make more and more safety decisions by themselves (and Safety Monster can be very forgetful).
You can use other favourite characters too.
Your child might love instructing a clueless Spider-Man how to cross a road safely. Or he can let Elsa know the rules on approaching dogs.
Using a character helps to build self-esteem because your child becomes the expert.
2. Safety Scavenger
It feels tedious to start every outing with a safety briefing!
But at the same time, it’s important for us not to miss potential dangers, like that broken glass at the playground or the multitude of toys on the floor during a chase game.
Turning safety into a scavenger hunt is a simple but effective way to get your child to think about dangers.
You might say, “Oooh, I can spot five hazards. Can you find them all?” Or for younger ones, “I spy a hazard beginning with S…”
Through my work I’ve found this approach really works, even with teenagers.
You might expect a few wacky dangers to be suggested, like ‘lions’ or ‘Voldemort’.
Safety tip: Make sure you brief your child not to run off to the hazard to show you (especially if it’s Voldemort).
She can take you by the hand. You can even all go as a chain.
Of course we want to empower our child, not bring more fearfulness, so for every danger, we can just approach it in a matter of fact way, talking about what’s in our child’s power to avoid that hazard. Can she choose a place that’s safe to play (rather than us dictating – which we all do sometimes)? What strategies can she come up with to avoid hazards?
Making scavenger cards (paper scraps will do) can be a great activity if you’re heading out somewhere new and want to think about safety before it all gets too exciting.
You can include words and pictures, like ‘spiky’, ‘sun’, ‘road’ or ‘dog poop’ that your child has to match when you get there. You’ll be amazed how exciting it can be to find dog faeces!
On one side, you can have the danger, like ‘stinging nettles’, and on the back you and your child can list ways to avoid that hazard, like ‘wear long sleeves and trousers’ or ‘avoid playing near stinging nettles’.
3. Help the aliens (or visiting child guests)
Your child gets to feel super special with this one.
She gets to set up an activity for some visiting aliens, or some real children, like younger brothers and sisters, or visitors to your home.
Your child comes up with something fun to do, like messy play in the garden, making music or colour-themed play in the sitting room.
He selects the toys and the layout, but also has to think about safety. Is there too much to trip over? Does the dog need to go in his special room? Are there any glass ornaments within reaching distance of the toddler?
She might want to go and find any choking hazards, for example, if a baby is coming to visit.
This can be a useful empathy tool, because your child has to pretend to be in someone else’s shoes and to think differently.
Because he might know the dangers, but other people don’t. That table corner might be the perfect head height for a two year old, but isn’t a worry for him at age five.
Clueless aliens make for extra giggles. Maybe the aliens think it’s safe to eat knives and forks. Or the table cloth.
With real visitors this activity helps to build sharing and social skills (and you’ll probably notice your child is extra excited when the visitors arrive!).
How about you?
Have you got any good safety tips or games?
Feel free to share any safety mistakes (hey, we all make them!). We can all learn so much from each other’s mistakes.
I’d love to hear from you. You can pop in a comment below.