In many schools, there is an increased emphasis on holding school safety drills with our elementary, middle and high school students. But, what do we do with our early childhood students? How can we help very young children practice safety skills without frightening them?
There are creative ways to practice safety skills with very young children without frightening them.
We can start by talking about the things we do each day to keep ourselves safe. We wear seat belts and bike helmets, and we look both ways before crossing the street. We don’t expect that we will fall off our bikes, or that the car will be forced to stop suddenly, but we do these things “just in case”.
We can explain that the word drill is another word for practice. Then, we can provide examples of dancers, athletes and musicians performing drills to improve their skills.
We can also call our drills “safety drills” rather than something unfamiliar or possibly frightening, such as “intruder drill”. We can talk instead about practicing safety for times we might need to stay out of the hallway for a situation like a neighborhood dog accidentally getting into the building and running loose, or a person falling and getting hurt, necessitating a clear hallway that allows medical help to respond.
Most young children have learned about fire drills, and we can draw on that experience. We can reassure them that fires are extremely rare and we don’t expect them to happen in our homes or schools, but again, we want to be prepared, just in case, so we practice.
Even very young children understand the game of hide & seek, so we can tell them we might have a very rare situation where we need to hide and stay very quiet for a period of time. We can practice relaxation or imagery with children ahead of time, so if we need to lockdown and stay quiet, we can give them a cue to close their eyes and quietly imagine their happy place.
It’s a good idea for teachers to process drills after they are practiced, so they can address any fears and provide reassurance. It’s also good practice to make parents aware of drills, and provide resources for those who want to talk about emergency preparedness with their child.