Childminder Guides > Early Years Safety Blog > Dark Nights

Dark Nights

Keeping Children Safe

When the nights start to draw in, some little ones become concerned about when their bedtime 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.

Things to consider include:

  1. Review and update your car risk assessment to make including information about dark nights.
  2. Review and update your walking risk assessment to make sure it is appropriate for dark nights.
  3. Focus on each child’s individual 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 daytime 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, for example –

  • Behaviour – work with the children 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 the risks they pose by, for example, arguing and being noisy while you are concentrating, trying to get out of the car seat or hurting each other while you are driving.
  • Emergency information – photocopy children’s emergency contact forms and put them in your bag, along with some nappies, wipes etc so you are prepared in case of delay or accident.
  • 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.
  • Emergency supplies – if you break down at night it will be more dangerous for you and the children, so ensure you have appropriate buggies and restraints in the car and maybe keep a small box in the boot with supplies such as fresh drinking water and some fruit. The children might like to help you pack the box with their favourite things.
  • Fatigue and eye issues – be aware of your own health and safety. Ensure, for example, that you are not tired or distracted and regularly check that can see well at night - you might want to book regular eye health checks.

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 to improve safety when walking on dark nights –

  • Jackets – some childminders use high visibility jackets for childminded children.  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.
  • Streetlights – children must not assume that they can be seen just because the streetlights are on. Talk to them about how difficult it is for road users to see pedestrians, especially small children and demonstrate as you drive along, talking about what you can and cannot see.
  • Driveways – 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 high fences etc. Teach children to hold onto the pram or walk next to you when you are out and about, regardless of the time of day.
  • 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. Direct teaching along with daily reminders will help them remember how to behave when it is dark.
  • Think bike – talk to the children about motorbikes and spot bikes when you are on outings. This will help children to remember to look for bikes when they are on walks in the dark, because they only have 1 light at the front and children will typically only look for 2 lights unless they are shown.

Supporting individual children

Speak to the children’s parents and find out information about how their child handles the dark.  For example, many children are wary or frightened of the dark and some might panic if out walking when it is dark. Note possible trigger times for different children – for example, 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 – think about individual risk assessments which include how they behave and what they can tell you about how they are feeling. 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 when he got home.  We spent 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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