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ABCs of Basic Life Support: How Early Can We Teach Children?

December 9, 2021

Family Connections with Pediatrics

As parents, we want nothing more than to protect our children from crises, emergencies and disasters. However, we also want to prepare our children so that they know how to respond. Many children already know how to call 911. Can we teach children more than that? How early can we teach children steps to get help on the scene of an emergency if no one older is around to assist?

In a recent Pediatrics publication Varela-Casal et al (10.1542/peds.2021-051408) wrote about their study that looks at ways to teach children ages 5 to 8 years the first steps of basic life support (BLS) and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

What is in the study?

The study used hands-on learning materials:

  • the “Rescube,” a mechanical cube-shaped puzzle that unfolds to provide pictures of the steps of BLS on each panel of the cube;
  • the “Endless book”, a graphic storybook of BLS techniques;
  • a stuffed animal to simulate how to help someone who is unresponsive or needs medical attention;
  • a mannequin.

Some materials were used together. For example, some children learned with the “Rescube” and a stuffed animal.

The study found that it was easy to teach the early steps of basic life support to children as young as 5-8 years old. Hands-on learning helped 5-8 year olds learn about the BLS steps and remember the information longer.

The authors also talked about how teachers could adapt lessons for their students. Also, because a stuffed animal is not very expensive, that could make it easier for schools to use these lessons.

What can I do to help my child and community with this information?

  • Share this article with your school parent-teacher association, principal, health teacher, or school board to discuss teaching basic life support skills to elementary school students.
  • For example, create an after school “ABCs of Basic Life Support” class for kindergarten to 3rd
  • For example, work with school boards to bring BLS into the school curriculum, starting in kindergarten or first grade.
  • Talk with your pediatrician about how your young children can get hands-on learning to use BLS if a health emergency arises at home.
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