As children learn to walk and talk, they also begin to venture out into a world filled with potential hazards. In addition to the threats of accidents or illnesses, children are at risk for abduction or harm at the hands of strangers. Games provide a way for parents or educators to teach children about the hazards of strangers without overwhelming them with an irrational fear of all adults. These games equip children with the necessary skills to keep themselves safe.
Good Stranger, Bad Stranger
Teaching kids that all strangers are dangerous can make children fearful of helpful strangers. A game that challenges students to identify and group safe strangers from dangerous strangers helps them differentiate between good and bad people. One option is to provide each child with a magnet board and a series of homemade magnets with either pictures or words describing types of strangers, including teachers, police officers, unknown neighbours or people soliciting help or assistance. Children place good strangers on one side of the board and bad strangers on the other and earn points for each correct guess. The game can be expanded into a class-wide two-team game in which teams take turns placing a picture or description on one side of a large board for points.
Circle of Safety
Visual crafts help children conceptualise which types of people are safe and which types are less safe or dangerous. The Circle of Safety game involves creating a bull's-eye-style board of felt with concentric circles that represent different types of people. Invite children to suggest who should be in the centre circle, representing the safest types of people, like the child's family. The next circle might contain best friends, followed by close friends, acquaintances and then finally strangers. Pull names like "Mom or Dad," "Bob the neighbour," "Mrs. Smith the teacher" and "the man in the old house" from a container and ask children one at a time to place them inside the correct circle for points. As a follow-up, challenge students to create their own circles of safety to bring home and discuss with their parents.
Stranger Role Playing
Role-playing games challenge children to re-create real-life situations to practice making safe decisions. Preschool or kindergarten students benefit from playing themselves during role playing. Ask a child from one team to come to the front of the class and pick a stranger from a hat; include options like "stranded driver," "new teacher" and "fireman." The adult takes on the role of the stranger, and the child responds to the requests using key phrases like "I don't know you" or "I'm finding an adult." Score the child on a 1 to 5 scale of safety, with 5 being the safest response. Older children may choose to take on the role of the stranger to recognise tactics strangers might use to lure children.
Safety Map Board Game
A peg or felt board is a useful way to create a realistic board-game map of the school neighbourhood. The map might include the school, the crosswalk, the library, a residential home and the police station. Teams of four students take turns moving their piece from one location on the board to the next. Each time, the teacher reads a unique situation to the team that might happen at the location.
For example, one group may have a safe conversation with the lollipop man, while another group might be approached by a man in a car at the crosswalk. Each team must say whether the stranger is safe or unsafe and offer a way to respond. If the response is acceptable, the team can move to the next location. If not, they have to try again on their next turn. The first team to make it around the board wins a prize, like a stranger-danger safety badge.