Preschoolers begin venturing out on their own more as they gain independence. Teaching health and safety topics to preschoolers introduces them to the skills they need to stay safe during this time of independence. The lesson plans should use hands-on activities so the young kids get to practice safety skills without being scared by them.
Preschoolers are now old enough to start taking care of their own hygiene tasks. Age-appropriate personal care includes brushing teeth, washing hands, combing hair and getting dressed. Work with a local dentist to get toothbrush donations so preschoolers can practicing brushing teeth in class. You can also use a giant mouth model to teach proper brushing. Regular hand-washing breaks help teach personal care. To show preschoolers how washing prevents spreading germs, have each child put on some lotion. Sprinkle glitter on five kids' hands. Have all of the kids shake hands. They'll see the glitter spread from the contact. Now have them wash their hands to get rid of the glitter "germs." Dramatic play is another way to practice personal care skills, especially getting dressed.
Nutrition and exercise are two key components of the preschool health curriculum. By teaching the importance of eating right and staying active, kids develop healthy habits that continue as they get older. The MyPyramid chart from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is a visual to show the preschoolers that they should eat lots of fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy, with some lean protein in the mix. A similar diagram shows a plate divided into the food groups. Have kids categorize foods into the groups. Have them choose which food is healthier between two or three options. The exercise component is also crucial. Kids need a minimum of one hour of exercise daily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plan active time into the preschool day. Have kids stop and notice their increased breathing and heart rate after being active. Focus on how exercise helps the lungs, heart, bones and muscles.
All that exploring and boundary testing preschoolers do puts them at risk for injuries in several situations. Incorporate habits the kids should do to keep themselves safe. Topics include fire prevention, wearing bike helmets, crossing the street safely, using seat belts and staying near an adult. Use simulations to give the preschoolers a chance to practice these skills. For example, drape a sheet over chairs to make a "smoky hallway" to practice crawling in case of fire. Draw roads and sidewalks on the playground so kids can practice crossing safely and playing away from the road. Have a bike day where kids can bring their bikes or trikes and helmets to practice using them safely.
Safety With Others
Another safety concern at the preschool level is staying safe around other people, particularly unknown people. Avoid using the term "stranger danger" which can cause preschoolers to fear any strangers. The lessons should focus on identifying safe strangers who can help when needed. This includes police officers, teachers, firefighters and other community helpers. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends teaching warning signs for potentially dangerous situations. This includes an adult who asks a child for help, suggests doing something without parental permission, tells them to keep a secret or otherwise makes the child feel uncomfortable. The NCPC suggests teaching "No, Go, Yell, Tell" in those situations. That means the child tells the adult no, runs away, yells to draw attention to the situation and talks to an adult about the situation. Practice that drill with the kids during the safety lessons.
- David Hernandez/iStock/Getty Images