I love kids and I love teaching, and I’ve combined both of those joys over the years in a variety of ways. I’ve found that kids are—all appearances to the contrary—often fairly reasonable and open minded. They like to learn, they like to master new skills, and they like knowing that those skills are important. I would thus conclude that even young children can begin to learn basic first aid and how/when to apply it. Furthermore, teaching first aid to your own children can be easy, fun, and potentially life saving.
So how to go about it?
There are a number of organizations with really great resources out there. The American Red Cross offers free first aid training, some of which is geared toward students and younger people and all of which is top-notch. Your local fire department, ambulance crew, or police department might also have some resources available, and it never hurts to ask. The payoff is not just the training, but a chance to meet other folks in your community and become more involved in keeping everyone safe.
I would be remiss in not giving a shout-out to two of my favorite civic-minded groups for young people: The Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America. While scouting isn’t for every child, it can offer a great many opportunities to learn new skills that will last a lifetime—including first aid training.
Teaching your kids first aid at home might also be an option—in addition to the family bonding time, you can brush up on your own skills in the process. There are a great many free resources available which should probably be in your home library anyway. The Boy Scouts’ first aid manual is a detailed approach to how to handle a medical emergency and a good read for either adults or young people. The British Red Cross has some fun online sources for younger kids—just make sure that you adapt the information (we call 911 rather than 999) to a North American setting. Both involve more than first aid; they seek to teach basic safety and harm avoidance skills which will prevent medical emergencies from taking place.
Everyone needs to be CPR certified, and this includes your family—even the kids. Find a Red Cross CPR course near you and sign everyone up. It’s a vital part of first aid training. Certification is valid for two years, so make sure to keep yours current.
If you choose to teach your kids at home, I recommend taking an incremental approach. Plan out a series of lessons which break the information down into bite-sized chunks, and space them out over a series of weekends or perhaps a stretch of school break. Like adults, children often learn best and retain information longer if they take it in over time. Regular practice will keeps first aid skills sharp—this applies to you as much as to your children.
It may take a little work, but by learning and teaching first aid to your children you’ll be on the way to meeting every parent’s goal: life-long safety and health for your little ones.