Tornado Drills with Toddlers

May 13th, 2010 by Dionna | 3 Comments
Posted in Children, Eclectic Learning, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Toddlers

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In lieu of a regular toddler activity today, let’s do something a little different: let’s do a tornado drill. Toddlers aren’t too young to start learning safety practices, we just have to be careful not to describe tornadoes so graphically that we terrify them. Following are some ideas I’ve found in my research to introduce tornado safety to your toddlers. 1

tornado funnel cloud

1. Introduce the Concept of Tornadoes During a Calm Moment: Don’t wait until the power goes out and the thunder is rolling to talk about severe weather. Choose a calm moment when your toddler is well-rested and feels safe. Here’s what I recommend: 1) Find out when your city’s weekly siren tests are and try to be with your toddler during the next test. Make sure he hears the siren and talk about the fact that those sirens are to give us warnings (and keep us safe) when there is bad weather. Tell him that if we hear the sirens during bad weather, it means that we need to be safe. 2) A day or two later while you are at home, talk about weather (thunder, lightning, rain, tornadoes) in a way that makes it interesting – not scary. Then bring up the sirens and talk about what we do when we hear the sirens sound during bad weather (see below for more ideas).

2. Explain in Developmentally Appropriate Ways: Your toddler doesn’t need to hear about wind shear, updrafts and supercells. But she’ll probably be interested in where thunder and lightning come from, and you can introduce the concept of tornadoes by talking about big winds. Just be careful not to be too scary. There’s no need to scare her with details of a storm that will probably never touch her personally.

3. Make a Kit: You may or may not want to involve your toddler in making an emergency kit. 2 She might dwell on the “what if’s” of an emergency situation. On the other hand, it might make her feel more safe to know that if there is an emergency, you will be comfortable and secure because you are prepared.

4. Make a Plan: Talk about what you will do in case a tornado is ever in your area. Toddlers are reassured when there are concrete steps they can do: (for example) listen to mama and papa; hold an older sibling’s hand; go downstairs. Be sure to look at Ready America’s site for help in making your tornado emergency plan.

5. Do Some Tornado Drills: Grab your flashlights and have a drill. Eat some of the snacks from your emergency kit. Talk about how we get downstairs fast to stay safe.

Here are some more sites on family emergency plans during tornadoes.

Kid Info/Weather: Links to various kids’ sites on weather.

K-2 Tornado Activities for Educators (several activities can be adapted for toddlers/preschoolers)

Tornadoes: information on what they are, how they form, and more.

If you have any additional insight into teaching toddlers about tornado safety, please leave a comment.

Photo credit: gentrinity

  1. If you live in another area of the country, I hope this post motivates you to start talking to your children about earthquakes, floods, or whatever other severe weather emergency graces your region.
  2. Ready America has a great website with advice on what to include in your family’s emergency kit.

3 Responses to:
"Tornado Drills with Toddlers"

  1. Great idea. I never thought of actually practicing a drill with Everett until recently when we’ve talked about house fires. Considering the season, this will be a perfect time to practice both. Thanks for the resources!

  2. Amber   AmberStrocel

    I don’t know anything about toddlers and tornadoes, but I do know something about earthquake drills. My approach is very similar, even if the natural disaster itself is different. I think that both can be very sudden and so they have that in common – you need to think ahead, to be ready.

  3. Melodie   bfmom

    So interesting reading about tornado drills. Makes me think of the Wizard of Oz! Living in BC we don’t live in the threat of tornados but we do have the threat of earthquakes so my little ones all know about earthquake safety. Great post to get parents thinking about the importance of these things!

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