Your preschoolers may know how many legs an ant has, how to use a pipette, and how to count to ten, but do they know how to stay safe around strangers? It is such an important lesson, yet not all children are exposed to it. It is also a difficult subject for us adults to talk about, but there are ways to introduce “stranger danger” skills without scaring young children. To get you started, below are a couple ideas for a stranger danger unit.
Intro to Stranger Danger Circle
Transition in- For our transition in, we started with a finger play to get children settled. Before our story, I introduced the question “What is a Stranger?”. As I had anticipated, children guessed that a stranger was a bad guy; they described strangers as being burglars, people who take kids, and bad guys.
Body- For the bulk of this circle, I chose to read a book from my childhood, which is “The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers”. This story is about young sister bear learning about strangers for the first time and it really answers the question “What is a Stranger?” which is the first thing children must learn.
After the story, I asked children again “What is a Stranger?” and discussed that a stranger is anyone you do not know. Not all strangers are bad, in fact most are nice, but you can’t tell from the outside if a person is good or bad. I used two paper apples to illustrate this concept, they both looked the same on the outside but children were surprised to learn that one of the apples had worms in it!
To conclude the circle, we stood up in our circle and role played a scenario where we were in the park and a person came up to us and said “Excuse me, I lost my dog, can you come with me to help me find it?”. The children in my class said yes, they would absolutely help the stranger, to which I explained that we do not go anywhere with or take things from strangers. I explained that adults know children cannot talk to strangers, so they will not be offended if you say “No thank you” and walk away. Instead of going with the stranger, children were taught to say no and walk away. We then pretended the stranger said, “But I have candy! If you help me find my puppy I will give you candy!”. I was a little shocked when my class excitedly said yes! Good thing we had this circle discussion!
The model that I taught children to follow in such a scenario is “no, yell, run, tell”. First, say no. If someone makes you uncomfortable or tries to harm you, yell and run away. Last, tell an adult you trust what happened.
Transition out- To finish our circle, I excuse each child by asking him or her a question about what we learned during circle.
Who is a Stranger? Folder Activity
Branching off of our circle, we also did an activity that I made using a folder. On one side, children can place pictures of strangers, and on the other side they would place pictures of people who are not strangers. I printed out a variety of stock images of people in addition to people in our classroom children knew. I also included a couple people in a professional outfits, such as a doctor and an electrician. This brought up the idea that anyone can where a disguise and pretend to be someone they’re not.