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Teaching Early Years Children about Safety

Keeping children safe in the early years


Early years providers have two main roles when we are talking about safety – we need to keep children safe and healthy and we need to teach children how to take responsibly for their own safety. There is a 3rd role which is closely linked – informing parents about how we keep children safe in the setting, to help them make better informed decisions about safety at home.


During the hot summer months, for example, we must make a lot of decisions for the children and ensure they are safe when they go outside every day to play and learn. It is also important that we teach children to manage their own safety by, for example, reminding them to put on their sun cream and leaving it where the older children can reach it to self-administer (risk assess if you have little ones of course); giving older children access to hats (the same way they can reach aprons for messy play) and letting them make the decision whether to wear their hat or not.

Of course, before children are given this level of responsibility we need to model how to behave sensibly in the sun – wear our own hats, let them see us putting on cream and teach them through the activities we provide about staying safe in the sun.


Activities to support children: some of the activities you might provide for children in your early years setting, related to sun safety (but transferrable to different types of teaching about safety) include –

  • Books – read books about sunny countries and continents such as African tales. You can compare this with winter books written for children who live in the UK.
  • Clothing – talk about the best types of hats, sun cream, t shirts etc and look up details of the ‘slip / slap / slop’ campaign with the children.
  • Footwear – if children are wearing sandals, show them how to apply cream between the straps.  Put a piece of black paper outside in the sun covered in a few toys and look how it bleaches through the day. Explain that this is what happens to the children’s skin, but that sun cream protects them.
  • Heat exhaustion – read up on the signs of heat exhaustion with the children and make sure they understand the dangers. Ask them who they think they should tell if they do not feel well in the sun.
  • Inclusion – help the children to understand that some children might need to cover their bodies for religious reasons and may feel uncomfortable being outside in the heat. Ask them what times of day are the hottest – use a thermometer to find out if they are right.



  • Outings – write a list of things to take on sunny day outings with the children. Is this different from cold or wet day outings?
  • Outside play – some play involves children rushing indoors and out again without a thought for putting on hats or stopping to reapply cream etc. Design posters with the children to remind them of the dangers and put them in charge of remembering, giving them quick prompts through the day.
  • Protection – talk about sunshine and shade and do some experiments with shadows.  Show the children where it is safest to play when the weather is very hot and remind them regularly to check the shadows in the garden.
  • Resources – some resources retain heat if left out in the sun and might burn children’s delicate skin.  Do experiments with ice to show how hot it can get in the midday sun and why it is important to check the heat of things before risking burns.
  • Sun cream – do some experiments with sun cream in water to show how it washes off skin and why it needs reapplying regularly. Go to the shops with the children and look at different bottles of sun cream; provide pictures of good role models, such as athletes wearing sun block; talk about how sun cream protects the skin; use an outside clock or timer to explain how often sun cream should be reapplied through the day and put the children in charge of noticing the next time.
  • Timing of outside play – expert advice states that on hot days children are either kept inside between 11am and 2pm or play only in shaded areas. Help the children to recognise these times on an outside clock and to take control of their own sun safety. Do some experiments with the children to find shade… our children love shadow play! Provide lots of shady activities for them but remind them that they must come inside if they are feeling ill.
  • Water play – this can be a fun way of cooling down and most children enjoy getting wet, helping to clean the garden toys etc. Talk to the children about the dangers of water play and provide mops so they can keep their play area safe.
  • Drinking water – cold water should be provided in cups appropriate for the ages and stages of the children in the garden and they should be encouraged to use a water dispenser or similar to get their own drinks.  Talk to the children about the importance of drinking more water in the hot weather and help them to freeze ice pops every day ready for tomorrow’s session.


Sharing with parents: don’t forget to share information about what you are doing with parents, to help them understand how you teach their children about staying safe and healthy in the early years setting. You might also, for example, share books you have borrowed from the library and song ideas with them, so they can support their child’s learning at home.


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