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Safety and Injury Prevention

Safety and Injury Prevention Services and Their Link to School Readiness

Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are naturally curious and eager to explore their environment. However, all learning involves some level of risk. Children depend on the adults around them to protect them from hazards while they are learning how to judge what is and is not safe.

Head Start programs support safety and injury prevention by:

  • Creating safe physical environments for children of all ages and abilities
  • Developing policies and procedures to prevent injuries
  • Training staff to implement them
  • Using active supervision to make sure that no child is ever left unattended
  • Using injury and incident data when injuries do occur to determine what happened
  • Developing strategies to reduce the risk of future injuries

Staff help families recognize hazards that can endanger young children. They also help families obtain safety equipment to create safe environments at home. Injury prevention is a critical element of any school readiness plan for young children.

Improve the effectiveness of health services and support school readiness by:

Educating children, staff, and families on ways to avoid injuries so children can learn safely.

  • Provide information on:
    • The risks of injury to children's healthy development
    • Science-informed injury prevention activities to protect children's well-being
  • Examples of an effective injury prevention program include:
    • Following safe sleep guidelines for infants
    • Using safety checklists
    • Establishing classroom safety rules
    • Providing pedestrian safety training for children and families
    • Training all staff on active supervision strategies
    • Creating and implementing transportation safety policies and procedures, if appropriate

Creating and maintaining safe environments that engage children and support their healthy development.

  • Use developmentally appropriate equipment and materials.
  • Establish a system to maintain the safety of facilities, equipment, and materials.
  • Promptly repair, remove, or replace items as needed.
  • Restrict children's access to any unsafe areas until repairs are completed.

Identifying and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to protect children from maltreatment.

  • Train staff to identify and report suspected child abuse and neglect in accordance with mandated reporting policies and procedures.

Using injury data for continuous program improvement to ensure children can learn in safe environments.

  • Use the program's ongoing monitoring system to prepare, collect, aggregate and analyze, and use and share injury data.
  • Develop injury prevention strategies and test them for effectiveness.

Research Connections

Minor injuries can negatively impact a child’s physical and emotional development. Injured children miss learning opportunities because of increased absenteeism. When children have more significant injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), they may develop social and emotional, cognitive, and/or language delays.1 Children ages 5 and younger are at high risk for TBI.  Research shows that most childhood injuries occur at home, and that the most important way to avoid injuries is for adults to supervise their children carefully and child proof their home.2

1National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic brain injury: Hope through research. Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tbi/detail_tbi.htm

2Kieran J., Phelan, K. J., Khoury, J., Kalkwarf, H., & Lanphear, B. (2005). Residential injuries in U.S. children and adolescents. Public Health Reports, 120, 65–70.

Topic:School Readiness

Keywords:Child safety

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: March 8, 2018