There’s nothing fun about disasters—especially when children are involved. But preparing them for an emergency can be. With markers, pillowcases, contests and games, a scary topic can be used to turn a boring summer day into an adventure. Here are some great ideas that will feel like summer fun to your kids … but are important lessons to keep your children safe.
Start by allowing your children to play boss for a day. It worked for the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region Pillowcase Project—a program that trained schoolchildren in emergency preparedness and encouraged them to go home and ‘teach’ Mom and Dad how to get ready for a disaster. It can work for you too.
First, challenge your kids to tell you what supplies they think are necessary during an emergency—a flashlight, a favorite teddy, band-aids, a water bottle. Give them a plain pillowcase and markers to decorate with pictures of those items. Then take them to a drugstore to find and fill their sacks with those supplies, adding others along the way. Back home, let the kids pick a safe place to store their filled pillowcases and check on them together occasionally.
When your pillow case project is finished, grab the kids and go to the mall. Have a contest to see how many emergency exits, fire extinguishers, hospital signs, Red Cross symbols, and police and fire departments your kids can spot when on the way and once inside. This creates awareness and teaches children to recognize important safety symbols to look for during an emergency.
Tired of being inside on a beautiful day… head to the pool! But because water wings alone aren’t enough to keep kids safe in the water, download the new Red Cross Swim App. It’ll track your kids’ progress in learning to swim, award them badges to keep them motivated and teach you to recognize how safe they are in the pool. Simply text "SWIM" to 90999 or search "Red Cross Swim" in the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon Marketplace.
Back home at the end of the day, the lessons can continue. Give your child a whistle and tell him he gets to blow it one time during the day, unannounced, as a signal to begin a fire drill. Then run through the drill, using a timer to see how quickly everyone can get out of the house after making sure each family member knows where to meet.
Teach the kids to call 9-1-1 on cell phones and landlines. Role play: pretend you are an emergency operator and have them practice telling you their first and last name--and, if possible, their address, street name or even just the name of their hometown.
Practice ‘Drop, Cover and Hold On’ for earthquake preparedness. Say it out loud, unannounced, in different rooms throughout the house and at different times during the day. Allow each member of the household to say the slogan without warning and anytime during the summer as a drill for everyone to follow.
By knowing what to expect during the unexpected and what they can do, your children will actually be less afraid. And so will you, knowing that even if they are alone during a disaster they will be prepared and able to help themselves.
And who knows? Your five-year-old might even be able to save someone else—by summoning aid, staying calm, and grabbing vital supplies from their emergency pillowcase.