When your child has a firm understanding of important safety rules, they can play, explore, and seek new challenges with confidence and joy. Plus, you can have peace knowing that your kids are safe as they practice bravery, perseverance, and curiosity. After all, we don’t set rules for children to be mean or prevent them from having fun—we do it to keep them safe!
To help you establish safe boundaries with your child, we’re sharing a round-up of the top safety rules to keep your child protected from common dangers. Here are some general safety rules for kids to learn this month:
13 Safety Rules For Kids
Stop, Drop, and Roll
We all know this one! Though few of us have ever found ourselves in this situation, if we did ever catch on fire, we’d instinctively know what to do. Teach your children this safety fact. So even if they just catch a spark on their pants at a campfire, they know exactly how to put out the flames.
To teach this safety rule, simply go outside and practice! The moment will feel so silly and strange, your children are unlikely to forget it. Make sure you get involved in the action, too, so they know that you’re serious about stopping, dropping, and rolling if they ever catch fire.
Never Play with Matches or Lighters
Kids may not come across matches much anymore, but lighters can be found everywhere. Whether they find a candle lighter in your office or a cigarette lighter on the curb, they’re bound to find a lighter somewhere—and they’re not hard to use.
Teach children about the dangers of playing with fire and even show them how easily something can catch fire! Additionally, it’s important to teach your children how to get out of the house safely in case of an emergency or fire. Practice your escape plan the same day they learn to stop, drop, and roll. Set a designated family meeting spot outside your house and practice getting there safely, so that everyone’s prepared if the unthinkable happens.
Never Be In or Around Water if an Adult Isn’t an Arm’s Reach Away
Water is probably one of the areas that parents and kids alike feel the greatest false sense of security. Whether it’s because the water is shallow, the bath is in earshot, the children aren’t playing in the water, or a lifeguard is present, families can be fooled into thinking pools and beaches are relatively safe places. However, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death and injury for children under 4!
Give your child strict water safety boundaries by telling them they are not allowed in or around water unless an adult is an arm’s reach away. (This is even true at your house! Water safety at home is just as important.) Until your child can side breathe, successfully propel themselves with kicks, and float on the back and front, they cannot swim and should not be left alone even with life jackets.
We’ll mention as well, that there is no replacement for good swimming lessons. You can start children in swimming lessons as young as 3 or 4 months old. And studies show the younger you start, the better the results. In fact, formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88% in children 1-4 years old. Look for public recreation centers that offer swimming lessons. Or ask at your neighborhood pool if this is a service they can offer!
Always Wash Your Hands
Good hygiene isn’t just about smelling nice. It’s about staying safe too! Teaching your kids to wash their hands before they eat or handle food will help protect them from ingesting germs that could make them sick.
To teach your kids how to wash their hands, prioritize bringing them to the sink before every meal. Show them how to pump soap and scrub every part of their hands clean. To make sure they wash long enough, practice singing the ABCs or the chorus to “Baby Shark.”
Never Share Your Personal Information
No matter when you decide to let your kids use the internet, internet safety needs to be a conversation. When children and teens are used to conversing with their friends on social media and virtual platforms, they forget there might be people out there that don’t have their best interest in mind. Tell them to never share contact information like their real name, address, phone number, or school with anyone online! And, as the parent, you should closely monitor their social media presence and internet usage.
Never Respond to a Message from a Stranger
Along that same line, talk to your teens about the dangers of responding to unknown messages. It can lead to scams, viruses, bullying, or even predatory behavior. If your child is in or reaching teen years, and you think they’re ready to have a mature conversation, it’s best to be frank about the dangers. A healthy fear will hopefully have them coming to you when they get a strange message!
If You See a Gun, Don’t Touch it and Get an Adult
Firearms recently surpassed car crashes as the number one cause of death for children under eighteen — so this is an extra important conversation to have. Even if you don’t have a firearm, your child may encounter one at a friend’s or family member’s home, or even in public. It’s best to give your child a healthy awareness and respect for firearms. So when they see one they’re neither terrified nor aloof. Teach your child to seek an adult whenever they see a firearm, and to never, under any circumstances, touch the weapon.
To teach this, have your children practice with an object representing a gun. If the child comes across the mock weapon while playing or going about their daily life, they run to tell you in exchange for a prize. After a week or two, you can stop the game and the habit will be set!
Parking Lot Safety:
Keep Your Hand on the Car Until Your Grownup is Ready
Parking lots can be dangerous places. There are few real laws and visibility is less than ideal. Plus, there are about a million driver distractions! It’s not at all unlikely that a motorist could miss a child running around, especially if they pop out blindly from between cars.
Teach your children to place their hands on the side of the car until you retrieve them, take their hand, and lead them inside. We even recommend getting a car magnet to create your child’s designated “stop spot.” Like other tips on this list, practice, practice, practice to make this a habit before you head to the parking lot! Also take time to read all of our parking lot safety tips to prepare for common parking lot dangers.
Stop and Look Both Ways
Even when your children are young and you’re leading their walks, you can still teach the principle of “stop and look both ways.” It’s so important for kids to understand the risks of the street, and it’s something they can truly understand at a pretty young age! Plus, if you practice when they’re young and make it a habit, they’ll remember to be safe when they’re old enough to run around the neighborhood with their friends.
Always Wear Your Seat Belt or Harness Straps
Car seats and seat belts must always be used properly to effectively keep your child safe. Because of this, your toddler can’t be unbuckling their chest clip and your teen can’t be ducking under the shoulder belt. From day one, be the best example you can be for good seat belt wear practices and don’t accept anything from your kids but the proper positioning and posture! Yes, that means your teen can’t lay down on the seat or put their feet on the dash.
Your toddler unbuckling, on the other hand, is more challenging. Of course, we should explain the importance of being safe in the car, but they can’t fully understand or be motivated by that. Instead, try one of our hacks for stopping children from unbuckling their car seats! You can button their shirt over the harness, use an incentive system, and give natural consequences to stop the behavior and keep them safe until they outgrow the tendency.
Never Keep Secrets
There’s no reason a child should keep a secret from their parents. Teach your child that no adult can ever tell them to keep secrets from mom and dad. Of course, we all know the classic example of a surprise party or gift—but inform your family members of this safety rule, so they can support your parenting decision by not letting your toddlers and young children in on any secrets.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Don’t talk to strangers is another fundamental boundary for keeping kids safe. This is still a good rule to teach, but consider some caveats. Perhaps your child cannot talk to strangers unless a parent is with them. And, if it’s an older child, try teaching them about strange behavior and trusting their instincts rather than just not talking to strangers.
You want your kids to be social and bold. Sometimes that might mean holding a door open for a stranger and saying, “How are you?” Or, skipping up to a woman on the bus and telling her she looks pretty. These small brave interactions teach our children to care for those around them and have self-confidence! However, we understand the risk too. So, decide the specifics of your “no talking to strangers” rule, and just make sure it’s clear to your children.
If You Get Lost, Stay Where You Are
Tell your child to stay put if they ever get lost! However, explain to them that if there is a family with kids nearby, go to them and tell them you need help. When kids get lost in crowded areas, their appearance of being distressed and alone can attract the wrong kind of people. But if your child sees another family and can explain what’s going on, that family is likely to get your child to you at any cost! The odds of your child approaching a dangerous person is very low. So this tip works great if you’re going to a busy area. So, what’s the rule? If you’re alone, stay put. If there are people, find another child with their parents! This, of course, should be framed as an exception to the “no talking to strangers” policy that you establish.
Your child can only be free with boundaries!
Years ago, there was a study conducted at two playgrounds. One playground had a fence surrounding it, whereas the other did not. They found that at the playground without the fence, the children stayed really close to the teacher and were nervous to be outside of their view. However, the children with the fence line (in other words, the clear boundary) felt more freedom to explore and play independently.
The study concludes that children thrive with set boundaries and basic safety rules. When they know their limits and they’re aware of dangers, they can feel secure in their present activities. So, take time to consider what child safety rules your kids don’t know yet, make a plan to implement them, and get to teaching! We hope that these tips help your family stay safe. For more safety tips, check out the Safe in the Seat blog. We’re your resource for expert vehicle and car seat safety tips!
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