Safety in the Community
Your toddler needs fresh air and space where she or he can run and play, have fun, get dirty, and make noise. You need to be with your toddler outdoors to share the fun and energy and to keep your toddler safe.
Streetproofing Your Toddler
Keeping your toddler safe in the community is very important. You can help your toddler develop self protection skills and learn to be cautious, but your toddler is still too young to protect him‑ or herself. Your toddler is still too young to be street smart. You must take responsibility for your toddler’s safety.
Unfortunately, the majority of people who harm young children are known to them. Often the person who harms a child is a family member, someone quite close, or someone who your toddler knows. It does not help just to tell your toddler “never talk to strangers.”
To help protect your toddler:
- Always know where your toddler is.
- Never leave your toddler with anyone unless you thoroughly trust the person.
- Stay well informed of the possible dangers in the community.
One of the ways to prepare your toddler for increasing independence is called streetproofing. Streetproofing is helping you toddler develop and use good sense when near traffic, around strangers, or lost. You can help streetproof your older toddler by teaching him or her how to react to situations that could be dangerous. Teach your toddler to know what to do and practise doing it with her or him. Some things you can teach your toddler to keep him or her safe are:
- Her or his first and last name.
- Your first and last name.
- The proper names for genitals.
- The name of the street you live on.
Check with Me First
Your toddler will probably find great pleasure in talking with people and in giving and getting small gifts and treats. With your support and supervision, being around people that your toddler doesn’t know can be a positive experience. Learning trust in the environment and community is a part of normal development. One way of keeping safety in mind and helping your toddler to learn about his world is to teach the “Check with me first” approach. Teach your toddler to check with you or a caregiver first before going anywhere with anyone or taking a gift or treat. Teach your toddler that you need to know where he or she is all the time and what things are given to him or her. Let other caregivers know that you use this system so that they can do the same thing and teach your toddler about safety the same way you do.
Toddlers Learn by Example
Your toddler learns by watching and copying you and other caregivers. Talk to your toddler as you do things. It will help teach your toddler safe behaviour. For example, say, “We’re carefully looking both ways first—see the car?” “We won’t run out here because there may be a car coming—let’s look for a crosswalk.” “What do we all do when we get in car? Buckle up.” Be very clear in your communication. Say, “Look up the driveway when you ride,” or “You must wear your helmet when you’re on your bike,” instead of “Be careful on the tricycle.”
Keep Instructions Simple
Start off with what instructions must be followed and talk about the reasons in a simple way. It will help your toddler to learn more quickly if you use the same words and ideas over and over. Also, your actions should be the same as your instructions—you always walk in a crosswalk to cross the street when going to the store, even if it means walking half a block more.
Show Your Toddler
Help your toddler understand a safety zone. For example, walk with your toddler around the yard and show him or her how far he or she can go: “You can play anywhere in front of the big tree, but you can’t go past it.” Remember, your toddler does not yet have the ability to make good decisions and may forget what was learned yesterday. Remind your toddler often. Also, help your toddler get to know the neighbourhood. Point out houses of neighbours and landmarks. Point out police officers, and explain that police help people.