…without Scaring Them
As parents, we try to shelter our kids from “scary” things. It’s a mixture of love, a desire to protect, and if we are honest – we like to sleep – so we minimize the possibility of nightmares as much as possible.
Disasters are about as easy to talk light heatedly about as the birds, bees and puberty. We all know that they’re going to happen and we should discuss it, but it’s an awkward conversation. I’m not totally sure how to help on the bird and the bees talk, but I can with the disasters. There are many fabulous age appropriate resources available to help with teaching kids about disasters.
The Emergency Preparedness Adventures of Brick the Wise of Tortoise and Bill E. Goat by D. J. Paulsen
Meet Brick the old tortoise. He’s smart, helpful, and prepared. Brick’s barnyard neighbors recognize that he’s the go-to-guy if there is an emergency and they ask him to teach what he knows. He starts by having a preparedness meeting and introduces the concept of go bags to the group, a tortoise after my own heart! During one summer day, the barnyard friends experience a tornado, house fire, and flooding. They are safe because of the preparations of their friend Brick the old tortoise.
This tale is presented as a series of story books for children ages 5 to 12. The children are given coloring pages to complete ahead of time and during the telling of the take they bring their pictures up to the front for all to see. The pictures are simple, but cute, and have enough detail to keep older children busy coloring too.
There are 5 chapters to the story and each chapter has 20 illustrations to complete, so this works well for a larger group of children. The author recommends using anywhere from 5 to 20 kids. I think it could also be adapted to a family or homeschool group and would work well if you were going to focus on preparedness for at least one week.
Each chapter has a retention review quiz to help reinforce what they’ve learned. Chapter Book 2 was about recognizing stormy weather and the potential for tornados. These are a few of the retention questions:
- We learned really stormy weather can create emergencies, what type of emergency happened in Chapter Book 2?
- This one is harder, the emergency alert weather radio had two kinds of tornado alerts a watch and a warning, which one meant take shelter now?
- Besides having an Emergency Alert weather radio and 3 Day Go Bags, Brick said everyone should discuss and plan a designated safe place or safe room to go to. Where did Brick say were some of the safest places at home?
I think this is a cute, fun, and informative way to teach kids about the threat of disasters. Let’s give them the tools they need while they are young, so it becomes a natural part of their life.
Natural Disaster Educational Resources
Check out this list of personally examined resources to help talk to, teach, and explain natural disasters in a fun, reassuring manner. You’ll find these books atAmazon.
Many of these titles are available at Amazon in paperback for under a $1, as kindle books, or at your local library.
- Will It Blow? by Elizabeth Rusch illustrated by K.E. Lewis
- Weather Projects for Young Scientists: Experiments and Science Fair Ideas by Mary Kay Carson
- Time For Kids: Earthquakes!
- Time For Kids: Storms!
- Time For Kids: Volcanoes!
A Kid’s Guide to Staying Safe Around Fire (Kids’ Library of Personal Safety) by Maribeth Boelts
Flash Crash Rumble and Roll by Franklin M. Branley Pictures by Barbara & Ed Emberley
We Shake in a Quake by Hannah Gelman Givon illustrated by David Uttal
National Geographic – Witness to Disaster by Judy & Dennis Fradin
- Witness to Disaster: Earthquakes
- Witness to Disaster: Droughts
- Witness to Disaster: Hurricanes
- Witness to Disaster: Volcanoes
- Witness to Disaster: Tsunamis
Magic Tree House Books by Mary Pope Osborne
- #13 Vacation Under the Volcano
- #23 Twister on Tuesday – Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #8: Twisters and Other Terrible Storms
- #24 Earthquake in the Early Morning
- #28 High Tide in Hawaii – Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #15: Tsunamis and Other Natural Disasters
Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole
- Original Series
- Chapter Books
- Scholastic Reader Level 2
- To the Rescue:
- Science Readers
Magic School Bus
- Gets Rocking – Out of this world & Blows its top
- In the Air – Kicks up a Storm and Gets lost in Space
Bill Nye the Science Guy: check the listings on Netflix, head over to your local library or get a review of the DVD on Amazon
- Storms & Atmosphere
- Earth’s Crust & Earthquakes
- Wetlands (if you live in a flood plain)
- Bill Nye The Science Guy: Wind
Bill Nye the Science Guy, Rescue Hero’s, Magic School Bus
Websites Teaching Kids About Disasters
Basically, there is a TON of info online for whatever disaster you can imagine. We weeded out the not-so-great ones and left the big, fun ones. There are many websites for small children with games, interactive web pages, coloring stuff, videos, etc. Mostly it’s about educating them so they recognize a disaster when it happens and they know what to expect during and afterward. Just follow the links.
FEMA’s website for parents and teachers with resources for teaching children about preparedness.
Sparky the Firedog invites kids to learn about fire safety through interactive web games, downloadable coloring pages, and other activities
Smokey the Bear helps kids learn about fire safety through an interactive website with games and activities
FEMA’s website for kids with games, comic strips, coloring pages, and music
US Fire Administration‘s website on fire safety
NOAA has downloadable coloring pages for kids teaching about safety during thunderstorms, winter storms, tornadoes, etc.
Sesame Street videos for kids teach about having an emergency plan and being prepared; also has games, coloring pages, and more.
JoJo’s Place – an interactive website for kids divided into age groups (10yrs and younger/11year and older) teaches about coping with an earthquake and educating the children on what to do, how to feel after an earthquake, what to recognize around them, etc.
NASA’s Scijinks – interactive website for older children and teenagers; teaches about weather science and safety
The American Red Cross Masters of Disaster® curriculum is centered on a series of ready-to-go lesson plans that help organizations educate youth about important disaster safety and preparedness information.
Masters of Disaster can be used to help reduce children’s anxiety about unknown aspects of disasters and tragic events. They will also gain confidence to deal successfully with life’s unexpected turns. The Masters of Disaster® Family Kit and Educator’s Kit are available for order online or through your local Red Cross chapter.
http://www.neok12.com/Natural-Disasters.htm – disaster education videos and games
Magic School Bus for games and quizzes, and parent/teacher lesson plans and parties
These museums are specific to the Pacific Northwest, cascade region. But a Google search of your area could bring up some great surprises.
Safety Learning Center and Fire Museum – free, Historic Belmont Firehouse 900 SE 35th Ave, Portland, OR
Portland Police Historical Museum – Free, Justice Center 111 SW 2nd Ave, Portland, OR, 509-832-0019 (call in advance to check hours)
Mt. St. Helens National Monument – Separate junior ranger programs at each of the 3 visitor centers. If you’ve never heard of the National Parks Junior Ranger Program, then that’s your next assignment.
Scouting is a favorite resource for teaching kids just about anything! These include links right back to the specific pages, but peruse their badges, belt loops and pins for lots of ways to teach other great survival and preparedness skills.
Cub Scouts –
Ready Man – Webelos
Emergency Preparedness Award – All Scouts
Teaching kids about disasters doesn’t need to be scary. Give your kids the tools they need to learn and make it fun. They will be working on maintaining their own Go Bags in no time!. Share some of your favorite preparedness teaching ideas in the comment section below.
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Other Tips For Teaching Children About Disasters
Be honest when explaining disasters to kids. That doesn’t mean you should act like a nihilist or like a panicked sissy, but you shouldn’t try to sugarcoat it too much either.
Give them information that’s useful and appropriate for their age. Don’t go fully graphic in your description that might end up scaring or disturbing your child rather than teaching them a valuable lesson. Your goal should be to teach your kid how to stay safe in case of such a scenario, not go in a full-on panic mode.
Listen truthfully and understand your child’s questions and queries about the subject matter. Often times, the younger the child is, the harder it will be to make them comprehend the situation. Be reassuring. If your child seems scared that a similar disaster might inevitably strike them, try your best to make them understand that they’re safe.
For younger kids, you might want to use animated images of disasters instead of showing them real imagery – even if it’s imagery that doesn’t specifically show people getting killed, crushed, etc.
During or following an emergency in the area, limit children’s exposure to news media that may scare or confuse them as it can seem like the disaster is happening over and over again.
Be Able to Admit That You Don’t Know Everything
Children tend to ask “why?” a lot of times. And often, they might ask things that not even you or Google might be able to answer. Guess what? It’s ok to admit you don’t know everything.
If you’re patient enough, children will eventually understand that it’s ok to not know anything and that not everything needs an exact explanation. Moreover, they need to understand that they don’t need to be scared of the unknown. Sure, human instinct tells us the opposite, but instincts aren’t always your best friend.