When Your Child Begins to Reason

Injury Prevention When Your Child Begins to Reason cartoonBy the time your child reaches pre-school age, they have accomplished a great number of skills – talking, walking, running and playing. They are also learning to reason when it comes to their independence. Now is an appropriate time to begin teaching good safety habits to your preschool and/or elementary school children. Remember, your child learns by modeling your behavior; your safety habits will become their own. The suggestions in this section will help you explain why safety habits are good skills for pre-schoolers and elementary school children.

Playing Indoors

Serious injuries or even death can occur as a result of innocent play. Here are some basic rules to make indoor play safer.

  • Don’t permit running or jumping in the house.
  • Don’t permit your child to play in the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Help your child understand the difference between indoor toys and outdoor toys.
  • If your child is playing hide and seek in the house, keep closets, attics and basements sealed off to prevent accidents with harmful objects and substances. Keep refrigerators and freezers locked to prevent your child from hiding inside, getting trapped and suffocating.
  • Teach older children which toys are not appropriate for younger children.

Playing Outdoors

Injury Prevention Play Outdoors swing cartoonYoung children should be watched closely at all times when playing outside. Use the following tips for outdoor safety.

  • Yards should be fenced in, and gates should be locked.
  • Dangerous substances, such as pesticides, should be kept out of reach.
  • Gardening and working tools should be locked away and out of reach.
  • Lawn mowers and weed whackers are dangerous. Children should not be outside when you are using this equipment. Children should never ride on a riding mower. For more information, visit our Lawn Mower Safety page.
  • Children should never be allowed near gas grills or barbecues.
  • Playground equipment should be installed securely in the ground and checked often. Bolts should not stick out and “S-hooks” must be completely closed.
  • Because nearly 70 percent of playground injuries are a result of falls, the surface under the playground equipment should be soft. Safe surfaces such as mulch, chips, sand or poured-in-place rubber mats should be 9 to 12 inches deep. Teach your child how to use playground equipment properly, and only provide age-appropriate equipment.
  • Make sure your child wears a helmet when bike riding; and a helmet and elbow, wrist and knee guards when using rollerblades, scooters or skateboards. For more information visit our wheels and helmet safety page.


  • Trampolines aren’t toys for kids. They can be unsafe.
  • The AAP policy statement published in 2012 and reaffirmed in 2015 states that home use of trampolines is dangerous for children and should be strongly discouraged. Acknowledging that trampolines can be a source of exercise, the Benedum Trauma Program at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh also recommends that trampolines not be used at home.
  • If children are going to use a trampoline, please follow these tips:
    • If you are not 6 years old, never play on a trampoline.
    • If you are 6 and play on a trampoline, make sure an adult is right there with you.
    • Never jump with another person. Only one person should jump at a time.
    • Always jump in the center of the trampoline.
    • Don’t do tricks or flips.
    • Never jump off. When you are finished jumping, stop, walk to the edge, sit and slide off.
    • Never go under a trampoline while someone else is jumping on it.
    • Never play on a wet trampoline.

Handling an Emergency

Since emergencies can happen in the home at any time, your child should be taught how to react accordingly.

  • In any emergency, teach your child to alert the parent or adult who is in charge.
  • Teach your child 911 or the emergency phone numbers of the local police department, fire department and ambulance service. Also, teach your child to dial the emergency phone number only in situations where an adult has been injured or is unconscious and cannot physically dial the phone for herself.
  • Teach your child her name, street address and phone number for identification purposes in an emergency. 
    When your child is able to read, write the emergency phone numbers, your street address and home phone number on a note next to the phone. In an emergency, your child can call emergency numbers and should be prepared to read the following information:

"My name is ________________
I live at ________________
My phone number is ________________
We have an emergency."

The emergency response professional will be able to request additional information.

Fire Safety

Fire can hurt you. Do you know what to do if there's a fire at your house? Follow these tips for safety:

  • Plan and practice fire drills at home with your family.
  • Know how to escape and where to meet your family outside after a fire.
  • If there is a fire, escape outside as quickly as possible – do not hide in your room or in a closet.
  • Leave your toys behind.
  • Close the door behind you as you leave a room.
  • Crawl along the floor to stay under any smoke.
  • If fire prevents your escape, close the door and put blankets at the bottom to keep the smoke out. Carefully open the window and yell for help. DO NOT lean out of the window, but you can wave something to help people see you.
  • Know how to “Stop, Drop and Roll” if your clothes catch on fire.

Learn more about fire safety, including what to do when there is a fire and take our fire safety quiz.

Water Safety

Drowning is the leading cause of death between ages 1-4 years old. According to the CPSC, from 2016-2018, 400 children drowned in residential swimming pools and hot tubs each year. 78 percent of the drowning injuries occurred among children younger than five years old.

Keep these tips in mind when your child is in or near water – including pools, bathtubs, hot tubs, rivers, and lakes:

  • Always provide adult supervision.
  • Never leave a child alone in or near the water. Encourage children to use the buddy system.
  • Flotation devices, water wings and pool toys should never be used as life jackets.
  • Never go swimming during a storm or when there is lightning.
  • Children should swim only in supervised or designated areas.
  • Never permit a child to swim in a river.
  • Make sure you and your child know the depth of the water.
  • Do not permit diving or jumping into water that is less than 12-feet deep.
  • Keep a phone and emergency numbers near the water.
  • Have each child complete a swimming safety program.
  • Enforce all pool rules, including no running, pushing or dunking other swimmers.
  • Never leave buckets of water on the floor. Children may drown in even small buckets.
  • Have an adult be a water watcher; someone who does nothing else but keep an eye on the children in the water. The water watcher is free of all distractions including cell phones and food. For more information on home safety.

If you own a pool or a hot tub, follow these safety tips, too:

  • Make sure there is a clear view of the entire pool from your house.
  • Install a fence or wall that is at least five-feet high and completely surrounds the pool. Entry points should be kept locked.
  • Invest in a pool alarm that sounds when a child enters the pool.
  • Make sure that any handles or latches to gate openings are not easily accessible to young children.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the safe installation and use of your pool cover.
  • Keep all electrical appliances away from the pool and hot tub.
  • Store pool chemicals carefully – explosions and burn injuries can occur if the chemicals are stored improperly or handled by children.
  • Cover hot tubs with locks when not in use.
  • Children should avoid hot tubs. If you do choose to allow children to use the hot tub, check regularly for appropriate temperature settings and limit the amount of time they spend in the hot tub. High water temperatures elevate body temperatures of children.

Poison Prevention

Keep all dangerous cleaning products and poisons out of a child’s reach and teach poison prevention in your home as early as possible.

  • Use materials from the Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to teach your child about dangerous substances around the home.
  • Show your child which products in the home are poisonous.
  • Teach your child what plants in the home are harmful if swallowed.
  • Periodically remind or ask your child what products or plants in the home can be dangerous and should be avoided.
  • Save the Pittsburgh Poison Center phone number in your phone: 1-800-222-1222.