Fire Safety & Water Safety: Can’t Schools Teach Both?

Last updated on June 5th, 2018 at 03:04 pm

Teach-kids-fire-and-water-safetyMy daughter came home from school yesterday full of news from the fire safety assembly. Every year there is an assembly that coincides with Fire Prevention Week, established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. What really impressed me were the messages communicated to the children. The firefighters told the children what they most wanted to know:

  • Your dog and cat will get out of the house on their own, before you, so don’t worry about them, and if you have a fish, the water will keep them safe until the firefighters rescue them;
  • Check your bedroom door for heat, if it’s hot, stuff a blanket under the door and then open the window, throw something heavy through the screen and call for help;
  • Keep all your stuffed animals and pillows in your room and throw them at the firefighters to get their attention if they don’t hear you over the sirens, and don’t worry, you have time, it takes an hour for a door to burn down.

Why were these messages so effective? Someone really listened to children and told them what to do to stay safe, but within the context of what really concerns children. I can tell you from the frantic pleas of my own children to chase down the dog and cat and get them to the basement when the tornado siren goes in my town, pets and stuffed animals/favorite toys are THE most important thing to a child during a crisis, so giving them safety information in the context of what matters most to them is extremely effective.

What also struck me, being the water safety mom, is that every school child in the U.S. is taught fire safety in school, starting in preschool, but we don’t teach water safety. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 308 children under age 15 died of unintentional fire and burns in 2010, yet 727 died from unintentional drowning. More than double the number of children drown than die from fire, but we aren’t teaching water safety in the schools. It’s worse if you add in the 15-24 age group, where drowning claims a staggering 656 lives but fire isn’t even mentioned in the ‘top 10’ list of causes of death.

Does this concern you? It concerns me but this can only change with your help.

Every year May 15 is International Water Safety Day. I need each of you to work to add a water safety assembly into your school or preschool curriculum. Now is the perfect time to start the process, you have plenty of time. Coordinate with the school principal, the PTO, and the School Board. Line up a speaker – I’m willing to bet your local YMCA, Park District, or Red Cross would be more than happy to spend 20 minutes talking to children about water safety. Or coordinate with your local Rotary International group and bring Josh the Otter, Stewie the Duck, or some of the great free materials at to your school.

The messages for children are equally simple as the fire messages:

  • Never go near water without an adult;
  • Wear a life jacket whenever you are on a boat or if you can’t swim or can’t swim in deep water;
  • Take swim lessons;
  • ‘I can swim’ means you can swim the length of a big pool without stopping or putting your feet on the bottom.

Your willingness to spend a small amount of time will have a positive impact on all the children in your community for the rest of their lives. Are you in?

Little Red Hoodie – An Internet Safety Fairytale for Kids

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:43 am

Internet predators are a pressing concern for parents. Kids are becoming increasingly more tech-savvy, and forms of online communication are growing at an alarming rate. All too often we hear tales of horrific tragedies involving social networking sites, and know that many of these could have been prevented with parental monitoring and Little Red Hoodie Booke Coverdiscussions about internet safety.

Until recently, I thought that such monitoring and discussions were something that I did not need to worry about for quite some time since my child is still very young and I teach at an elementary school. My thinking drastically changed after overhearing a conversation among second grade girls at my school about an upcoming sleepover. When I think of young girls’ slumber parties, I picture snacks, games and movies, but instead, the girls were planning to log on to their sisters’ social networking sites. From this moment, I knew that I needed to take responsibility for educating this demographic about internet safety, and wanted to encourage others to do the same.

After this incident, I began researching young children and internet use and found some disturbing information. For example, in 2008 according to the Rochester Institute of Technology:

  • Approximately 48% of students from kindergarten to first grade interact with others on the internet.
  • Of these 48%, nearly half of the students had already been exposed to something online that made them feel uncomfortable.
  • To make matters worse, one in four of these children did not report his or her experience to an adult.

Given these findings, I was more convinced than ever that children are never too young to be introduced to the concept of being safe on the internet.

After exploring countless books, videos and the like, I found that there were many products, websites, and resources that helped educate parents and older children. However, I found no such internet safety resources and materials that were specifically geared toward introducing the subject to younger children. Then it hit me: there is a parallel between the Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story and internet predators, and this would be a perfect way to introduce the concept to this age group. Pulling from this idea and what I have learned about quality children’s literature from my years of experience as a teacher, I wrote Little Red Hoodie. This children’s picture book is a modernized version of the classic tale in which the Big Bad Wolf plays the role of an internet predator posing as Granny online in an attempt to lure Little Red into his trap. I spent countless hours working to make the book child-friendly and humorous, so that the topic could be introduced in a nonthreatening way. My hope is that the book will initiate a critical conversation among families and perhaps even help prevent future tragedies.


  • Educate yourself and your children about internet safety. Local police departments often offer various materials and programs to the community. There is also a wide variety of organizations and website that provide such resources including the following:
  • Be mindful of the growing number of ways that your child can utilize the internet to interact with others. For example, many video games now allow children to go online and interact with other users.
  • If you choose to use Little Red Hoodie as a tool for teaching your family about internet safety, here are some suggestions:
    • Read the book at least once for enjoyment before using it to get into a serious discussion.
    • After reading the book, help lead an open-ended discussion by asking questions such as the following: “How did the Wolf trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “Why do you think that the Wolf used the computer to try to trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “How do you think that the story would have been different if Little Red Hoodie would have asked her mother before leaving the apartment?”, “What do you think Little Red Hoodie should have done?”
    • Post “Little Red Hoodie’s Rules to SAFE Internet Use” near your computer (found on the last page of the book).

Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in January of 2010. Unfortunately, despite numerous technological advances, the internet has not become a safer place for our kids to play. There are wolves lurking under the covers and in the dark places, and it is up to us to keep our little ones safe from these predators – a job made far more difficult as our children’s internet skills far surpass our own. According to a recent headline “children as young as THREE now know how to access the web – and are teaching their parents how to use tablets and phones“. Now more than ever we need a way to introduce our kids to the big bad internet wolf. We need something like Little Red Hoodie.

How Much Exercise Should My Child Do?

Last updated on August 13th, 2015 at 05:45 pm

Family WorkoutIt depends on your child’s age.

Children and young people of all ages should try to minimise the time they spend sitting down. For example:

  • being restrained in a pushchair (UK)* or car seat
  • watching TV and playing video games
  • travelling on a bus or train

Children Under Five

Children under five who can walk unaided should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (three hours), spread throughout the day, indoors or out.

If your child is under five, you should encourage them to do:

Children and Young People Aged 5 to 18

Children and young people aged 5 to 18 should do at least 60 minutes (one hour) of aerobic physical activity every day. This should include a mix of:

  • Moderate-intensity activities: this means your child is working hard enough to raise their heart rate and break a sweat
  • Vigorous-intensity activities: this means they’re breathing hard and fast, and their heart rate has gone up quite a bit

As part of your child’s 60 or more minutes, they should also do activities that strengthen their muscles and bones.

For examples of activities, see:

How you can help your child

You can help by encouraging your child to find activities they enjoy, and by building physical activity into family life. Most children love running around a park or playing in a playground. Live Well has more tips for how to get active with your kids.

Team sports, such as football, basketball and volleyball, can also be great fun. If your child doesn’t like team sports, there are plenty of other activities, such as dance and martial arts. Try the sport quiz to find out what sports might suit you or your child.

Use the Find services directory to find sporting facilities in your area (UK).

Read the answers to more questions about exercise.

Further information:

* or stroller (US)