Giving our kids the freedom to just be kids can come with the occasional injury. And when it is their playmate that is injured, they do not hesitate to go to their rescue.
It is in our nature to help others. As we teach our children the basics of first-aid we are also allowing the development of compassion, self-esteem, and sense of purpose.
Children can learn the basic skills of first aid as early as age four. They have incredible capacity to learn and one of the first things to learn is how to react when an emergency presents itself.
It may be helpful for you to first review and learn up-to-date basic first aid if it has been a while.
With toddlers we can teach through every scraped knee, nosebleed, or splinter by verbally describing what you are doing and why you are doing it. As they grow older, role playing is a great way to introduce some often scary scenarios.
Here are some examples of basic first-aid essentials your kids should know.
While we see many children with phones in their hands, they may not know how or when to call 9-1-1. If you still have a land line at home, it is important to teach them how to dial the numbers on both a land line and a cell phone.
Know that if you say “911 (nine eleven)” it may cause confusion for a small child because in an emergency they may be looking for the number 11 on the phone.
A strong point needs to be made that calling 9-1-1 is only for emergencies and making unnecessary calls has consequences.
Once they know how to call and when to call, the next lesson is to learn how to speak to the emergency operator.
The first thing they will be asked is “What is the emergency?” You child will also be asked their name and address. Memorizing a home address, has always been one of the first lessons learned - for many reasons.
Role playing may be helpful in teaching what defines an emergency. Ask questions that begin with, “What would you do if ….?”
Know the way around the First-Aid Kit
This can be a good time to play doctor while teaching your child how to find the first aid kit and the purpose of the items in the kit. Allow them to practice using some of the items in imaginary scenarios.
Basics include the importance of cleaning a wound and applying a bandage.
How to control bleeding
If your child is playing and a friend scraps a knee, for example, explain that it is best to instruct the injured child to cover their own wound first with gauze or other clean cloth. If your child needs to assist it is best to have them wash their hands first or wear gloves found in the first aid kit.
If the wound is more serious, such as falling onto a piece of glass, instruct them to never pull an object out of the skin. They should call for help (not necessarily 9-1-1) and try to stop any bleeding.
In this scenario, they will apply pressure around the wound, put a clean bandage around the area, and elevate the injured body part if possible until help arrives.
Be careful that you make the lessons lighthearted. Talking about injury can cause anxiety in children. They love to play doctor so creating an imaginary scenario with role playing is a great way to teach them about first aid.
What to do when there is a broken bone
This is another opportunity for role playing.
The first discussion can be about how bones can be broken. They may also hear the term fractured, which is the same thing. Since there is usually a lot of pain with a broken bone, they should know not to touch the area of the injury.
Calling for help is the main lesson here and keeping the injured person comfortable.
What to do when someone gets burned
Prevention is the best defense against burns. Simple lessons include placing a cup on a sturdy surface before pouring hot water, walking carefully around fires, and using a potholder for anything that is cooking.
Stop, drop and roll is an important lesson to learn. But remember to make it a fun lesson and not one that may bring nightmares.
Fire needs three things- air, fuel, and heat. So, the first thing to discuss is not to run because that adds oxygen to the flames. Therefore, your first action is to “Stop.”
Then, “Drop” to the ground and cover the face using our hands and “Roll” over and back and forth until the flames are out. This smothers the flame by depriving it of air.
What emergencies might your family encounter?
What types of emergencies is your family likely to encounter? Perhaps you have someone with a chronic illness that may require specific care. Or you live near water, and it is important to know how to rescue someone from drowning. Different dangers exist in regions with extreme heat or cold such as heatstroke or hypothermia.
Think about what your emergencies might be.
A child needs to know that their safety is your priority. Knowing what not to do is just as important. Just because they know first aid does not mean they have to use it. Finding an adult as quickly as possible can be the best solution.
Knowing how and when to handle basic first aid can boost confidence and have your child better prepared in an emergency. But remember that it is not your child’s job to worry about what might happen, which is why making it a fun experience will have the best outcomes.