Teaching first aid skills to children

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  Published on Wednesday, 07 July 2021

Teaching first aid skills to children

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & NutritionProfiles & Interviews
  Published on Wednesday, 07 July 2021
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Injuries and illness can strike at any time, and during childhood, many youngsters require first aid treatment when something serious happens.

Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that the most common cause of hospitalised injury amongst children is a fall of some type, such as from playground equipment. Injuries due to thermal causes (such as scalds from hot liquids), drowning and accidental poisoning are also particular causes for concern in children under the age of four. 


When children do run into trouble, there are often siblings or classmates around, and when parents experience health problems, it’s also common for children to be first on the scene.

For this reason, it’s important that youngsters know what to do if someone close to them gets hurt or sick.

As parents, we can prepare our children to be first responders, and today, St John Ambulance Queensland explains how children and grown-ups can learn life-saving first aid skills.

How can parents teach children to best respond to a health emergency at home?

Often children feel incredibly helpless during an accident, particularly when it is their parent or care-giver that has become unwell or injured.

If we can teach our children how to remain calm, so that they can think clearly about the steps they need to take, it will empower them to know that they can make a difference. For example, parents might explain that when scary things happen, it helps to take three big breaths.

We should teach our children about looking at their surroundings for dangers and removing themselves from harm, so that they don’t become hurt or unwell as well. 

It is also important to reinforce to them that they need to get help.

Spend time teaching them how to use the phone if it is necessary to call emergency services on 000, and also identify with them who is a ‘trusted adult’ that they can get help from should a parent or care-giver be hurt. This could be a nearby relative, family friend, neighbour or even a reliable, local shopkeeper.  

What’s something that’s often overlooked when parents teach young children how to respond to accidents? 

Although we often take this for granted, it is quite important to start teaching the younger child about their surroundings, so they know where they are and how they can communicate this to the 000 operator, should they have to call them.

Knowing their home address, being able to identify landmarks, and describing their surroundings will greatly assist emergency services to get to an incident promptly.  

This is also the case if a family is at another location, like a campground.

When, and how, can children learn first aid?

Research shows that from as young as six-years-old, children can learn aspects of basic first aid and learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and we believe that children can play a significant role in part of the response to injury and illness at home and in the community. 

In support of this, St John Ambulance offers a charitable program called First Aid in Schools, which provides primary school-aged children with first aid skills they can use in the event of an emergency.  
Delivered by our highly trained, dedicated and passionate Volunteer Educators, the First Aid in Schools program is specifically designed with the children's learning in mind. It is interactive and fun, and promises to impart a key set of skills that will empower young people to administer vital first aid in an emergency.

It costs nothing for schools, students, parents and guardians, so is a priceless program in terms of cost and community benefit.

How can schools arrange for a First Aid in Schools team to visit them? 

In Queensland, First Aid in Schools is currently available as a face-to-face program in primary schools located within the Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast regions. All other regions in Queensland not listed are welcome to participate in our online live-facilitated program. 

If parents or care-givers know of a school that would like to have the First Aid in Schools team visit their students, they can enquire at firstaidinschools@stjohnqld.com.au 

In other parts of Australia, First Aid in Schools is delivered by St John in each State and Territory, and you can find their websites here.

So far, we’ve trained over one million Australian schoolkids in first aid for free and this number is rising each year, thanks to donations from the corporate and local community.

How else can families prepare for accidents and health emergencies?

A comprehensive and up-to-date first aid kit really helps in an emergency, and families should make sure they’ve got essential first aid supplies at hand.

St John stocks a range of first aid kits for the home, car, campground and beyond. We have a Tiny Tots first aid kit for babies and toddlers, and even have one for pets, which was developed with Zoos SA.

In addition, we’ve produced a range of first aid fact sheets, which contain key, practical information about a variety of health issues, including:

  • Bites and stings
  • Burns and scalds
  • Fractures and dislocations
  • CPR for infants and children/adults
  • Choking for infants and children
  • Asthma attacks
  • Allergic reactions/anaphylaxis, and lots more.

We also encourage parents and other care-givers to get up to speed on their own first aid skills.

There are a range of training courses that adults can enrol in to learn first aid and CPR (including a specific course for the education and care setting).

The Caring for Kids online first aid course is recommended for anyone who looks after little people, including parents, grandparents, extended family, nannies and babysitters.

St John Ambulance Queensland is also looking forward to reintroducing our Mother and Baby First Aid course over the coming months. This course aims to teach expectant and new parents essential first aid skills that they may need in the years ahead as they enter parenthood. There will be more information to come, so keep your eye on our website

At the end of the day, accidents are unexpected events, and it’s not always possible to prevent injuries or illness. Families can take steps to reduce risks, though, and it’s important that we teach our children, and ourselves, what to do in an emergency.

Further reading

The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia, KidSafe, has produced a guide to help parents make the family home safer for kids.

With information about preventing falls, drowning, accidental poisoning, scalding and other accidents, it’s recommended reading for parents and other care-givers.    

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 05 July 2021

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