Last fall our whole family counted down the days until our cell phone contract was up. Mark and I were excited to get new phones that, you know, WORKED. And Annalyn was excited to get my hand-me-down phone that, you know, mostly DIDN’T WORK.

Before we made the switch (not to iPhones. Because we’re not those people. Come on.), I downloaded several children’s apps – both the fun kind and the learning kind. Then I deleted everything else. I left it connected to our home wi-fi, so now as long as it’s charged (which takes approximately 48 hours and lasts for about two) she can play on “her” phone.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how to permanently delete the email app (Ask me how I know.), but other than that, I’ve removed anything grown-up from the phone and left her a fun toy that cost me nothing.

Well, almost everything grown-up.

A couple weeks ago, just after I’d put her to bed and settled onto the couch with the baby, something in the house began SHRIEKING. At first I thought it was the smoke alarm, but I realized (not nearly soon enough) it was actually that “harmless” pretend phone receiving an Amber Alert.

It scared the crap out of Annalyn and me both. Her, because she didn’t understand what the horrible noise was and thought it meant the house was on fire. Me, because I understand [eventually] what the horrible noise was and that it meant a family somewhere in our vicinity was terrified for a much bigger reason.

A 10-year-old girl was abducted and killed that day, about three hours from my house. She was playing in her front yard. And now she’s gone.

I cannot think of Hailey and her family without tearing up. And yes, I’m still a bit hormonal and always a bit emotional, but this is a truly horrific thing to happen. Really, it’s enough to make a parent paranoid.

That doesn’t help, though – being paranoid, I mean. But being smart and safe – and teaching our kids to do the same – just might.

Last summer I decided that Annalyn needed to learn about stranger danger and good touch/bad touch before entering kindergarten. So I did what any book nerd does: I checked out and bought two dozen books on the subjects.

As it turns out, reading them – one after another – to your five-year-old JUST FREAKS YOU BOTH OUT. So, don’t be like me. Don’t read all 10 of these books to your child in one sitting. Actually, you might not even need 10 books at all. Visit your library or bookstore. Flip through them, and choose the one or two that fit your family best.

Me? I like books that rhyme. And books that are short and simple but don’t talk down to my bright kindergartener. You might like those things, too – or you might prefer something else altogether.

Either way, let’s talk to our kids about staying safe. (And, side note: Let’s check all the notification settings on that “defunct” cell phone before dismissing it as a toy. Especially after bedtime.)

10 Children’s Books about Safety

Once Upon a Dragon : Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean E. Pendsziwol
This one is my favorite. It’s the rhyming – it gets me every time! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the story involves taking a second look at fairy tales, which you know I enjoy. But most importantly, the book ends with the Dragon’s Stranger Safety Rhyme and a great checklist of rules.

Never Talk to Strangers by Irma Joyce
This book was written in the 60s but still remains relevant today with basic safety tips. It portrays the strangers as animals, though, so you’re still left with the task of explaining that you can’t tell how safe a person is by how they look. (If only the “bad guys” always looked like a scary rhino or bear!)

Ashley Learns About Strangers by Sarah Duchess of York
I haven’t read this one yet. It shares a story about a little girl who gets lost in a store (and is then reunited with her mom through the help of a security guard). Based on the reviews I read, this might be a good starting point to a larger conversation about what to do if you get lost in public. In our family we’ve talked about finding someone who works in the store (and how to identify who that is) or finding another mom with kids to ask for help.

Not Everyone is Nice : Helping Children Learn Caution with Strangers by Frederick Alimonti
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love it because it’s realistic and presents the unfortunate truth that just because someone looks or acts nice doesn’t mean he is. I hate it for the same reason. I think it was when we read this book together that I realized I’d succeeded in freaking us both out more than I was teaching her about safety. So, word to the wise: this book is good. Just don’t read it after three other books on the same topic.

The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Familiar characters plus a safety checklist plus a focus on finding a balance between fear and wisdom? Count me in, Berenstains. Sister Bear becomes frightened after her parents give her the stranger danger talk, and the whole family has to learn how to be safe without being paranoid. Obviously this was just the right book for Annalyn and me as we finished up our Tour of Scary Safety Books!

Don’t Talk to Strangers, Pooh! (featured in the Disney Winnie the Pooh Storybook Collection)
This one is hard to find, but (assuming you can get your hands on it) you can’t go wrong with Winnie the Pooh and friends. This story, like some of the others, focuses on being safe but not scared and includes a list of safety rules.

I Can Play it Safe by Alison Feigh
I like the way this book aims to build children’s confidence by arming them with safety skills, not just rules to follow. (Although, no surprise if you know me one bit, I’m a big fan of rules.) It addresses secrets vs. surprises, intuition, open communication with trusted adults, and paying attention. Actually, I’m buying this one to read with Annalyn again.

Some Parts are Not for Sharing by Julie K. Federico
This book is tiny and short and super simple – which I love. I wouldn’t rely on this as our only resource for safety education, but now that Annalyn is learning to read on her own, I’m glad I bought this one to keep so she can refer back to it on her own. (I do, however, question the wisdom of using fish to teach about body parts covered by swimsuits. It just…doesn’t…make sense.)

Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Maude Spelman
Simple and basic, this book teaches kids about private parts and assures them that they get to choose who touches them. We’ve tried since Annalyn was little to not force her to hug or kiss anyone, even relatives, so I appreciate this approach for young kids learning about their bodies and safety.

I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Your Private Parts Private by Kimberly King
I haven’t read this book, though I did buy it. It’s written by a mother and her son, and it’s long. And, honestly, after reading all these others, I simply didn’t have the heart to face one more. However, I think it’s time. Until then, read Megan’s review here.

How do you teach your kids about safety?

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