"Use your walking feet indoors!" and "Use your words, not your hands" likely come out of your mouth periodically if you're a mom of preschoolers. To the kids, these phrases might seem like just more nuisance rules, but to the you or their preschool teacher, they're part of keeping your little ones safe and helping prevent injuries. When it's your turn to help out in your preschooler's classroom, keep the little ones as "injury-proof" as possible by keeping a constant eye on your young charges, promptly cleaning up spills and reminding them of safety rules as needed.
1 Familiarize yourself with local and state regulations for establishing a safe and healthy environment for preschool age children, as well as those mandated by preschool accrediting agencies. When selecting a preschool for your child, look around carefully and ask questions to ascertain whether these standards are met so you are comfortable sending your child there.
2 Keep a close eye on your preschoolers at all times and know what they're doing. Remind them that they need to follow the same safety rules at home that they would at school. You might engage in simple role playing with your preschooler and her friends: Pretend the playroom is their room at school. As they "play school," create situations they might encounter at school and ask them what they should do -- scatter toys underfoot or point your pencil or scissors at someone's face, for example. Use the occasions to reinforce their classroom rules -- pick up after yourself and don't point sharp things at other kids.
3 Encourage your children to keep their toys, art supplies and belongings up off the floor and organized in durable plastic or wooden bins. Remind them they have to do the same thing at school. When you take them to their classroom on the first day, show them how to use the cubbies or hooks provided to safely and neatly store coats and bags.
4 Teach your preschooler basic safety rules and practice them often to reinforce their importance. At this age, simple rules such as no running inside, no pushing other kids and not climbing on furniture are easy for them to understand and go a long way toward preventing both home and classroom injuries.
5 Establish a family plan for what to do in case of fire or severe weather. Practice these periodically to ensure your kids know what to do and where to go. They will adapt more readily to fire drills and intruder alert drills at preschool if they are already comfortable following similar procedures at home.
6 Tell your preschooler she needs to tell her teacher or another grownup about a dangerous or hazardous situation she might encounter at school. Remind her that this is not about "tattling" on another student because she's mad at someone or she thinks they're being naughty. Instead, explain that this rule is for very important times, such as when a classmate gets sick or hurt, another child is doing something dangerous or someone brings "bad stuff" -- drugs or weapons, for example -- to school.
- Reinforce kids' safety-conscious behaviors by practicing drills but also by praising their efforts to point out hazards, clean up their areas and using words to work out problems with a friend rather than hitting or kicking him.
- Be sure your children's teachers always keep hazardous materials out of the kids' reach. Classroom furniture, shelves or storage bins should not be stacked precariously. Students should always be supervised by responsible, authorized personnel.
- American Safety and Health Institute: Child Care Supplemental Handouts for Injury Prevention and Infection Control
- The Preschool Professor: Preschool Safety in the Classroom
- Centers for Disease Control: School Health Guidelines to Prevent Unintentional Injuries and Violence
- Kingston Cooperative Preschool: Safety in Our Preschool
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images