Don't wait to see this before talking about safety.

Tornado Safety for Preschoolers

by Kathryn Walsh

When a tornado strikes in "The Wizard of Oz," it leads to an hour of good family fun. When a tornado hits your town, though, it's a nightmare. Twisters can strike nearly anywhere; according to, they've been reported in every state. But your kids are far likelier to experience one if you live in the Midwest. Adults call the shots when a tornado strikes, but teaching your preschooler about tornadoes helps him keep himself safe.

Explain the Basics

If your preschooler has ever convinced himself that a monster lives in his closet, you know that kids this age are just as scared of imaginary dangers as real ones. When you live in a place where tornadoes are a reality, neglecting to tell him what happens during this type of storm might encourage him to make up the details in his head. He'll stay calmer when a twister hits if he knows what's going on. Pick up a children's book about tornadoes and read it during story time. When you're done, ask him to describe what he thinks a tornado is like. Correct him if necessary, using simple language such as "A tornado is like a big, strong, swirling windstorm. The sky gets very dark and windy when one is coming, and sometimes it starts to hail. We can't stop a tornado, but we can keep ourselves safe until it's over."

Make Plans

Dorothy didn't have a tornado plan, and she ended up warring with the Wicked Witch. Give your preschooler a better alternative by involving him in your safety plans. Take him shopping with you for items to put in a safety kit: a radio, batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, non-perishable food and gallons of water. Let him pick out a small book or game to include in the kit in case you don't have time to collect his other toys. At home, show him where you're going to gather if a tornado warning goes off. Ideally, you'll go to the basement, but you can gather in a windowless central area of your home if you don't have one. Talk about what will happen once you get to your safe place. Say, "We might have to sit on the ground for a little while, and we might hear loud noises or shaking when the tornado goes by. We'll sing songs and snuggle until it's over."

Practice Drills

Hopefully, your preschool has participated in at least one fire drill (And if he hasn't, then it's time to plan one at home.), so a tornado drill shouldn't be too foreign. Schedule a drill for the whole family, but don't keep it secret. Find a horn or whistle and toot it for your family, explaining, "When you hear this, pretend a tornado is coming. Walk calmly to [your chosen safety spot]." After the first drill, schedule another drill once a month, but don't give advance warning. Consider running drills while you're out running errands or visiting family too. For instance, when you're in the mall, say, "What if we heard a tornado warning go off right now? What would we do?" and guide your child to a downstairs bathroom or windowless hallway.

Talk to Caregivers

Bad things always seem to happen at the worst possible times, so consider the fact that a tornado could strike when you're not with your munchkin. To reassure yourself and guarantee your child's safety, talk tornadoes with any of his regular caregivers. In a tornado zone, your child's preschool teachers should already have a plan for how to handle a storm; ask the school for details so you can talk to your child about what will happen in that event. Share your home tornado plan with any babysitters and family members and include them in your home drills so everyone's on the same page. You might get a reputation as tornado-obsessed, but after the next storm hits, you'll walk tall.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Photo Credits

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