First Aid 101: A Primer For Parents and Kids

First Aid 101: A Primer For Parents and Kids

For those of us who may be setting out to develop a family emergency preparedness plan for the first time, it’s understandable to think that first aid is something that belongs in the realm of adult responsibility. And to be sure, parents and caretakers should absolutely be well versed in first aid. But helping your child develop a working knowledge of first-aid practices not only empowers them to be as prepared as possible for an emergency situation, but also helps them develop their sense of purpose, compassion, self-esteem, and empathy.

Because the difficult truth of the matter is that you may not always be near your child when they get hurt. The good news is that first aid can be easily incorporated into your everyday life as a part of teaching your child about safety, and you may be surprised by how much your child already knows; after all, they’ve watched you tend to their boo-boos and even your own (not to mention they’re probably better at navigating an iPad than you are; they often understand so much more than we think they do!).

Where to Begin

Start from a place of “why.” For instance, if you, like most parents, are telling your child ad nauseam to stop jumping off the couch, explain that you are worried about them falling off the couch and bumping their head. Explain that if this were to happen, Mommy or Daddy would help by putting some ice on the bump and making sure they are not hurt anywhere else. And explain that if they are hurt badly, you would take them to see a doctor to get more help.

The same approach can be taken in situations in which a minor injury actually occurs. As you help them, narrate what you are doing and why: “You fell down and have a scrape on your knee. It’s bleeding now, so I’m going to hold pressure on it so it stops bleeding. Next, I’m going to wash it off so no dirt gets stuck in it. Now, I’m going to use this special cream to help it heal. After that, you can pick out a Band-aid and help me put it on your scrape.”

Seeking Help

Another important thing to teach your child is basic identifying information. They should know the full names of everyone in the family, your address, and who her neighbors are. Teach your child about 9-1-1 and how and when to call, emphasizing that this is only for emergencies or when a parent or other supervising adult cannot tend to a situation themselves.

Adjust your methods for seeking outside assistance as it makes sense for your unique family. For example, in addition to the above, I’ve also taught my daughter how to use the Amazon Alexa device to call her grandparents, who then could then assist remotely in getting further help.

Below, we’ve compiled the basic steps for administering first aid for basic injuries that can be taught to your child. Get creative in the way you approach teaching your child these methods so they feel as comfortable and confident as possible.


  1. Apply direct, constant pressure with gauze over the wound for five minutes. Elevate the affected area, if possible.
  2. Rinse wound with room-temperature water.
  3. Inspect for contamination of dirt and debris.
  4. Apply antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin.
  5. For a small wound, dress with a Band-aid. For a medium or large wound, dress with a gauze like Kerlix secured with tape, a Coban self-adherent wrap, or an ACE bandage.
  6. Go to the ER if bleeding remains uncontrolled after five minutes of constant direct pressure; there is wound contamination or a foreign body is present in wound; or if the wound appears infected.

Broken Bones

  1. Address any bleeding or open wounds in the steps outlined in the “Bleeding” section.
  2. Immobilize the injured extremity in a position of comfort. To do so, you can use any material that is relatively rigid and (ideally) lightweight to make a splint. Secure it with a bandana, ACE bandage or tape. The goal is to limit any motion of the broken bone, keep the injured party comfortable, and to maintain circulation (so be careful not to wrap the splint too tightly.)
  3. Go to emergency room for definitive care.

Make an Arm Sling with a Bandana

  1. For injuries to the clavicle (collar bone), shoulder, elbow or wrist, fold the bandana across the diagonal so it makes a triangle.
  2. Cradle the elbow in the center of the triangle.
  3. Tie both sides around the back of the injured party’s neck.

If a Child is Choking

  1. Assess the situation. The child may be suddenly unable to speak, cry, or cough. Their skin may turn bright red or blue.
  2. If the child is coughing, allow them to continue coughing. If they are unable to cough, have someone call 9-1-1.
  3. Perform the Heimlich maneuver if the child is over the age of ONE:
    1. Stand or kneel behind the child.
    2. Make a fist with one hand and place it halfway between child’s xiphoid process (the section at the lower end of the sternum, which is not attached to any ribs) and belly button. Cover your fist with your other hand.
    3. Begin quick, upward thrusts at a 45-degree angle.
    4. If child becomes unconscious, start CPR.

Administering CPR on Children

  1. Check for responsiveness. Speak loudly to the child and tap on his or her shoulders.
  2. If there is no response, have someone call 9-1-1. If you are alone, administer two minutes of CPR and then call 9-1-1.
  3. Open the airway. With the child laying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly and lift the chin.
  4. Look, listen, and feel for breathing. Look in the mouth; if you can see a foreign body, remove it. Never blindly sweep the mouth, as this may push a foreign object further back.
  5. If there are no signs of breathing, administer two rescue breaths by pinching the nose shut, making a seal with your mouth over the child’s mouth, and issuing two breaths.
  6. Begin chest compressions:
    1. Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest over the sternum.
    2. Place your other hand on top of your first hand and interlace your fingers.
    3. Give 30 quick compressions, each about two inches deep.
  7. Perform two more rescue breaths.
  8. Keep going until you see like breathing, coughing, crying, or an EMS professional shows up at the scene.