It is hard for young children to see situations from different perspectives and to foresee consequences of their actions. Unlike older children, young children do not have the benefit of past experience to help them understand danger and they often act impulsively.
Young children also think concretely, so some of the abstract concepts relating to safety are difficult for them to grasp. The combination of words and illustrations in storybooks help children begin to understand safety.
In Jane Kurtzs Do Kangaroos Wear Seatbelts? a visit to the zoo gives a caring mother a chance to explain good safety practices to her son, including wearing seatbelts, holding Moms hand, and riding in a stroller.
Dinosaurs, Beware! A Safety Guide, by Marc Brown and Stephen Krensky introduces safety in a variety of settings, from the back yard to meal time.
To teach children how to call 911, look for Its Time to Call 911: What to Do in an Emergency published by Inc. Penton Overseas. This interactive board book with sound effects has a telephone keypad in the cover that lets children practice calling 911.
School Bus Safety
Some young children are transported to early care and education programs on school buses. Because most school buses are designed for older riders, small children may be at greater risk in a crash.
Big Cindys School Bus, by Lisa and Cindy Moran, is a reassuring look at riding a bus. Cindy is a safety-first driver who performs daily inspections of her bus, explains why it is not safe to chase a bus, and makes a head count of her riders to make sure no one gets lost on a field trip.
Robin Pulvers Axle Annie and The Speed Grump is a light-hearted tale with a deeper message of bus safety. Annie is a school bus driver with two hands on the wheel and nerves of steel. She is determined to keep her young riders safe from Rush Hotfoot, a driver who ignores every rule of the road. Annies adventures can lead to a discussion of bus safety equipment, like hazard lights, emergency lights, and stop-sign arms.
Bicycle and Traffic Safety
According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, approximately 200,000-300,000 tricycles and bicycles are purchased for preschool children each year. Preschool-age children are most likely to be injured on bicycles in driveways and yards, and the most common bicycle-related injury is head trauma.
For a simple introduction to bicycle safety, look for Mercer Mayers Play It Safe where Little Critter learns about reflectors, bicycle maintenance, helmets, hand signals, traffic signs and rules, and road hazards.
Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury or death by up to 85 percent but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that only some 15 percent of children wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or tricycle.
Children who are reluctant to wear helmets may relate to Franklins Bicycle Helmet by Paulette Bourgeois. Franklin likes his new helmet until he is embarrassed when some friends make fun of it. Encouragement from another friend gives Franklin the perspective he needs to make a good decision.
Street Safety Hints and Policemans Safety Hints, two board books by Giovanni Caviezel, provide very young children with a short introduction to crossing streets, traffic lights, road signs, seatbelts, child safety seats, and helmets.
Drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1-14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children 1-4 years old drown most frequently in residential swimming pools.
Jean Pendziwols A Treasure at Sea for Dragon and Me: Water Safety for Kids (and Dragons) follows a child and her dragon as they enjoy a day at the beach and learn the importance of swimming with a buddy, checking depth before diving, and listening for the lifeguards whistle. The book also includes Dragons Water Safety Rhyme and a water safety checklist.
Each year in the U.S., approximately 200,000 children are treated for playground-related injuries. Children under age 4 are most likely to be hurt on climbers and slides, and to be injured on the head or face.
In Please Play Safe! Penguins Guide to Playground Safety by Margery Cuyler, a parade of colorful animals teach children to use seesaws, monkey bars, slides, balls, sand boxes, jump ropes, and other equipment safely. Some of the most frequent playground no-nos are included, such as failing to wait for a turn on the slide, throwing sand, and walking too close to swings.
Children ages 5 and younger are more than twice as likely to die in fires than older children and adults. Two books that give children important information about fire safety are Stop Drop and Roll by Margery Cuyler and No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean Pendziwol.
In Stop Drop and Roll, Jessica worries she will forget the fire safety rules she has learned, such as checking smoke alarm batteries and extension cords and developing an escape plan. Even the stop, drop and roll rule worries Jessica until a funny incident at her brothers birthday party helps put her anxieties to rest.
In No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), a girl invites a dragon over for lunch. The dragon sneezes, producing a fire. Luckily, the child, dragon, and mother know and follow the fire safety rules and escape unharmed.
Caring for and loving a pet teaches young children empathy and responsibility. Sometimes, though, pets can injure children. According to the CDC, children are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
One of the best ways to keep children safe is to teach them how to treat and respect animals appropriately. Elizabeth Verdicks Tails Are Not for Pulling gives young children an introduction to handling pets.
Readers learn how pets say hands off with a growl, hiss, or scratch. It also reminds children to cuddle, not squeeze pets, and to love, not tease, them.
Stephanie Calmensons May I Pet Your Dog? The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids) is a positive and reassuring introduction to dog safety told from the perspective of Harry, a dachshund.
Parent Educator, Asheville, NC, City Schools Preschool, and Instructor, Western Carolina University
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), www.cpsc.gov
National Fire Protection Association, www.sparky.org
National Program for Playground Safety, www.uni.edu/playground/