5 key activities to teaching young children to stay safe

Authors Carolyn Gelenter, Nadine Prescott, & Belinda Riley of Teaching Protective Behaviours to Young Children give us 5 key activities which can be easily incorporated into the classroom activities to instill protective behaviours among students.

Teachers should ensure that young children develop an awareness of personal safety as it helps them to identify and express their feelings, make choices and solve problems. It's important to start this intervention at an early age, giving children the skills they can learn to prevent possible abuse.

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1. Share the 2 key themes of protective behaviours outlined below with the children. Say them repeatedly so that children really integrate the themes into their everyday understanding, play and learning.

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2. Think of 5 agreements you will have in the classroom that reinforce the 2 key themes. Get these ideas from the children. They might include for example, we all want to be listened to or we go to an adult when something really hurts our bodies or our feelings.

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3. Teach children the correct names of body parts. Use those names cross-curricular where relevant. The more commonly used the words penis and vagina become the more children will normalise them as parts of the body to be taken care of, rather to be seen as 'rude' or 'private'. Private becomes associated with shame and secrets rather than a child's right to determine who gets to touch those parts of the body.

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4. Play lots of games that reinforce the ideas they are learning! A great one to play that creates a scary but safe feeling is 'Monsters'. The children are arranged in a circle. One child is the 'monster'. They creep up to a child in the circle who has to call out the name of another child before the monster reaches them or they turn into the monster!

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5. Reward children for sticking to the class agreements through allowing time for additional games or extra play time

The two key themes from Protective Behaviours sum up the kind of citizens we can support young children to grow up to be in a world where a right to feel safe needs to run alongside the need for taking responsibility, starting with ourselves.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe all the time"
"There is nothing so awful or small that we can’t talk about it with someone”

As education professionals we know this programme is helpful. It reinforces every child’s right to be taught these basic skills with evidenced-based practical strategies, activities and resources. Research shows that children need those skills right now, before abuse occurs. As responsible adults who care about the children and young people in our society, we believe it should be mandatory to teach protective behaviours in every early years’ service, school and educational setting - have you got your copy?

- Carolyn Gelenter, Nadine Prescott, Belinda Riley

Featured Title

  • Teaching Protective Behaviours to Young Children

    First Steps to Safety Programme, 1st Edition

    By Carolyn Gelenter, Nadine Prescott, Belinda Riley

    This programme aims to provide children aged 4-7 years with awareness and strategies for keeping safe. Although it may be difficult to accept, children and young people from any community, including those with disabilities, can be put at risk of harm, abused or hurt, regardless of their age, gender…

    Paperback – 2013-10-24


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