Do you play the ‘What if …’ game with your kids?

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emergency planning with kids

Our family likes to play the “What if …” game, and it’s something you might want to consider for your family. Playing the “What if …” game lets us talk through different scenarios and do some emergency planning with kids. Hopefully, it will give them tools that we hope they will never have to use. However, if they do ever face an emergency situation, we’ll hope that it was a situation that we’ve talked about before. It doesn’t take much time or even much research to use the “What if …” game to prepare your children.

My favorite one so far is, “What if there’s a tornado warning but the house catches on fire?”

There’s also been:

What if I’m in the bathroom when there’s an intruder drill at school?

What if everyone has been picked up at school and you’re not there yet?

What if we wake up and we can’t find you?

What is the first thing you do if we have to evacuate the house?

What if … what if …. what if …

Emergency planning with kids

Take a few minutes and think about a few emergency situations that your children could face, and then take advantage of times you have their attention to talk to them about the situations in a non-threatening way.

Bring up a “What if?” at the dinner table when you’re gathered as a family. Talk in the car when you are going somewhere. Ask them what-if questions when you have down time around the house. Don’t make it an all-the-time conversation, but aim for at least once a week.

The rules: Stay calm, let them talk

Try to keep the topic non-threatening by calling it a game. If your children seem to get upset at all, change the topic and wait a while before bringing it back up. Remind them that it is highly unlikely that the scenario would ever happen, but that it’s good to be prepared.

Your job is to guide the conversation, but let your children do most of the talking. Listen to learn what their concerns and ideas are. I honestly would not have thought to think about what to do if they were in the bathroom during a lockdown – that was one of my children’s questions and it was a good one. That idea then prompted a discussion of what they would do in every area of the school since they have only practiced in a few areas.

Why you should play

Playing the “What if …” game gives children practice on thinking through scenarios. It helps them think of solutions to problems. It’s helpful to do this before an emergency happens. Playing the game gives children confidence that they know what to do if emergency situations happen. Playing the game also encourages their imagination. You may not always be with your children, but you can be in their heads by having these conversations with them.

For more ideas, here are some resources:


Red Cross

Local police station or firehouse – see if they have any pamphlets or materials for children or can think of any topics you should discuss. They may even be willing to talk to your children, too.

Sesame Street

School district – talk to them about what kinds of emergencies they prepare for and how you will be contacted if there is an emergency. (See Where are my children? 3 questions to ask about your school’s safety plan)

emergency planning with kids

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