Situational Awareness with Kids

kids looking around in the woods

Children are never too young to learn about situational awareness. You can make it part of your everyday routine to practice situational awareness with kids of all ages. As kids develop (at different rates) they’re able to learn more skills and put them into practice.

Preschool aged children are just beginning to learn awareness of their own bodies. This is a great time to teach them to use all their senses. Make it a game so it’s fun for them. Ask them what sounds they hear, what do they see within touching distance, and what do they see when they’re looking farther away. Ask them what they smell – on their bodies, in the air. You’re teaching them to gather information based on their senses, which will help them develop stronger situational awareness as they grow up.

Kids who are a little older can build on those basic skills. At this age they begin to use critical thinking skills that you can enhance with games such as a scavenger hunt, or treasure hunt. They will use those critical thinking skills to find the items on the list. You can also teach kids this age to know their own address and phone number. Maybe your younger kids can learn their address if they’re at that stage developmentally.

Once kids are into the double digits (ages ten and up) you can start combining the skills they’ve already learned with more intense situational awareness skills. Have them point out the exits when you go out to eat or shopping. Have them notice five things about a stranger and tell them to you. Teach them to walk with their heads up, with purpose. Most kids I see nowadays are walking with their heads hung, looking at their feet or their phones. Tell your kids to pay attention! Listen to what’s going on around them, look ahead into the distance so they can see what’s coming.

From personal experience, I can tell you that my youngest daughter, who is now 17, really developed great situational awareness from a young age. When she reached age 15, she was learning how to drive, and without me even prompting her, she knew to listen for cars, as well as look for them when pulling into traffic. She knew to look both ways before pulling out when a light turns green, in case other drivers weren’t paying attention and ran a red light.

Every child learns differently, and some children may pick this up quickly, while it may take other children a little longer to develop these skills. Keep at it with them! And … it doesn’t have to be scary! You don’t have to say you’re looking for an exit in case of an active shooter situation (although as an adult you should be!) but so they can get out safely if there’s an emergency.

Remember, it’s never too early to start teaching your kids about situational awareness!

original author: J. Felix