Dark Nights

Keeping Children Safe

When the nights start to draw in, I know some little ones who are quite concerned about when their bed time might be or when parents are collecting because it’s already dark by tea time. Linked to this is the concern all childminders have about keeping children safe on dark nights, especially if they are walking down badly lit streets or streets without paths.

For this time of year you need to do 3 main things...

Check and if necessary update your current car risk assessment to make sure it is appropriate for dark nights;
Check and if necessary update your walking risk assessment to make sure it is appropriate for dark nights;
Focus on each child’s needs on dark nights depending on how you believe they will handle them and taking comments from parents into consideration.

Car risk assessment

Driving at night or in the dark is different from day time driving. You are less aware of pedestrians and have to be more alert to things going on around the car.  For this reason, children must understand the importance of behaving in a responsible way when sitting in your car as passengers.  It is good practice to work on car behaviour skills through the year, but when it is starting to get dark on the school run you can step up the activities so you are supporting the children to understand;

Car seats - spend time talking to children about the importance of car seats.  Find information about weight and age / stages of car seats and use it with the children, exploring their weight and height and looking up car seat details to compare;

Car documents – talk to the children about the car and how you keep it safe. Find out how much they already know about car safety. Role play garages and mechanics with them to enhance their understanding.

Walking risk assessment

Children need to be aware that they must be visible to other road users in the dark.  Experiment with the children to see how many things they can see in the dark... this will help them to learn how they might not always be visible to road users. For example, they might enjoy playing with torches and glow in the dark stickers in a darkened room.

Here are some ideas...

  • Jackets - I have friends who use high visibility jackets for childminded children and I think these are an excellent idea.  Talk to the children about the jackets and measure each other before buying. Ask them to help design a logo for them to advertise your business;
  • Street lights – children must not assume that they can be seen just because the street lights are on. Talk to them about how difficult it is for road users to see pedestrians, especially small people;
  • Drives – children should never be allowed to run ahead of you due to the danger of drivers coming out of their driveways distracted or unable to see children due to fences etc.  If there was an accident I am not even certain you would be insured if you have allowed this to happen;
  • Crossings – children must always be supported to behave responsibly at crossings and shown how to use the different types of crossings properly. They must wait until cars have come to a complete stop and should never cross when the red man is showing. This will support them to remember how to behave when it is dark;

Supporting individual children

The best thing to do first of all is to speak to the children’s parents and find out basic information about how their child handles the dark.  Many children are wary or even frightened of the dark and some might panic if out walking when dark descends eg if you are late coming back from the park or leaving an appointment when it was light on arrival.

Each child will react in a different way and I write risk assessments which include how they behave and what they tell me they feel. For example, a few years ago one little boy was quite upset at home time because it was dark and he thought it was bedtime (and he would not have time to play).  We spent a lot of time reassuring him and talking about the things he could do when he got home – this helped him to be calmer when his parents came to collect him.

Another child had issues with seeing ‘things’ in the garden and we spent time with him looking at animals which come out at night and talking about shadows.



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