Many toddlers are drawn to the flashing lights of a fire truck or police car. So what is the best way to teach them about these important members of our community?
I am lucky to be part of a very active MOMS Club in which I was able to take a tour of a police station with my son. My little guy is 17 months old so I wasn’t sure what he would gain out of the experience, but the chance for him to see an actual police car up close and personal was enticing enough.
The tour included about 20 moms and their children ranging from babies to preschoolers. My son is a very curious child so most of tour included me chasing him down the halls and having him scream every time I tried to redirect him to the officer giving the tour. He wanted to touch and explore everything in this exciting new environment (that is what toddlers do best!)
The officer showed us the weight room where they work out and in a blink of an eye my son had climbed on one of the treadmills just after we were told not to touch anything. I am assuming this officer has children of his own as he was very patient with our little learners.
By the end of the tour I was wondering if I should have brought him to this as it felt like I was chasing him the majority of the time and wondered what he could have learned. Maybe I should have waited until he was just a bit older.
However, his face was priceless when the officer pulled his car up to the front of the station and turned on the lights. This made it all worth it in my eyes! It was raining so we didn’t get to go up close, but my little one still loved every second of it.
The more I have thought about this experience the more I have realized just how much we both got out of it. I am thankful to be able to have these opportunities to learn with my son, as these early years are so important and they go by fast.
Here are the 3 most important things my son and I gained from this field trip:
CHILDREN NEED TO HAVE POSITIVE EXPERIENCES WITH COMMUNITY HELPERS WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG.
When I look around I don’t always see police shown in a positive light. When you turn on the TV they can look quite scary, especially to a little one. When I see a police officer and I am driving I immediately slow down because my response is fear. I don’t want my son’s response to be the same. By seeing an officer in uniform and having a positive experience at a young age I am hoping that his response will be, “There is someone who can help me,” not “I better slow down, so I don’t get a ticket.”
PARENTS NEED TO BE EDUCATED ABOUT THEIR LOCAL POLICE OFFICERS AND OTHER COMMUNITY HELPERS.
This is important because I can teach my child about what they do specifically in my community. My son may not have understood the police officer that day, but I did when he told us his number one priority is to help others. I learned about how many officers there are in the unit and how many are on duty throughout the day.
When children see parents or loved ones have interactions that are negative with police it can leave a lasting impression.
I believe the opposite is true too, so creating a positive association when they are young is valuable. You are one step closer to this goal by being an informed parent that can share actual information with your child about your community officers.
REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES ARE THE BEST
Reading a book about a police station before or after to deepen learning is a great activity. However, it cannot replace the learning that is happening when children have these experiences for themselves.
Being able to see, hear, and explore a police station in real life will leave a lasting impression even on a very young curious toddler. If they offer the tour again we will go next year, and experience it again with even more to learn.
I highly encourage any parent to seek out a tour of their local police station, fire station, or hospital no matter how young your child is. You can inspire your little one by seeing the work done within your community as well as teach them to be thankful to those that are helping us every day.