Recently a 3 year old boy saved his grandmother’s life when she suffered a stroke and he called 9-1-1. His mother had just taught him how to call four days earlier.
A couple of days later I was listening to the radio when the DJ’s were talking about the story. They had preschool children and made the comment that they never would have thought teaching 9-1-1 at such a young age would work. So listeners began to call in with their stories, at what age they taught their child and what methods they used.
As this life-saving story proves, it is never too early to teach your preschooler. When to teach your child depends on their age and level of maturity. Some 2-year-olds may understand the concept but it probably makes most sense to start teaching it at age 3. You know your child best and should determine when your child is ready to learn.
It’s important when teaching your child about 9-1-1 that you explain, at a level they can understand, how it is used for emergencies. One caller on the radio station said she explained to her preschooler that if mommy or daddy is unable to talk, even after you have shaken them, that would be an emergency. Be careful in choosing your words. You wouldn’t want your preschooler to think that if you are sleeping, it means 9-1-1 must be dialed.
You might try walking your preschooler through some scenarios. Ask some “what if” questions to help them better understand the reasons for calling 9-1-1. When you think your child has a good grasp of when to call, teach your preschooler how to call.
This might work best if you have a pretend phone to use. If the real phone in your home is one with buttons, you don’t want to practice on a play phone that has dials. Try to use a play phone that is as similar to your real home phone as possible.
Show your preschooler how to press 9-1-1. Press the numbers and have your child repeat. You might also try role playing some scenarios. This will help your child understand the concept even more.
Finally, emphasize to your child that calling 9-1-1 is only for emergencies and to never practice on the real phone. If your child wants to practice they can use the pretend phone.
Remember, you know your child best and should determine the best time and way of teaching 9-1-1 to your preschooler. Use caution and good judgment.