I was sorting through a box of old books and happened upon some of the workbooks my kids used in youeryuan (Chinese preschool). One of the books was called Safety Education.
It teaches kids some basic safety tips with illustrations (some of which are vividly terrifying for a little kid). It’s interesting to note what is the same, and what is incredibly different from what we would teach the under-5 crowd in America.
Some things seem to be standard the world round, such as:
1. We should not gnaw on crayons.
2. Even though erasers smell good, we should not eat them.
3. Pencils are also not things we should put in our mouths.
Preschoolers in any country seem to need a lot of life coaching on what NOT to put in their mouths. We’d need to add things like shoes, pets, and siblings to this list to make it comprehensive.
Oh So Different
4. Home Alone 5: Every Preschooler’s Nightmare
There was an extensive section in the book talking about what to do if you discover you are home alone. It begins, “Niu Niu wakes up to find that Mommy and Daddy are not home. She’s a little scared.”
It goes on to say things you should do if you’re in this situation: call your parents to check in, read a book quietly.
Then there are things you should not do: cry loudly, randomly leave the house by way of the door or the window.
Um, yeah. Let’s remember this book is aimed at 4-year-old kids. I think Step 1 in the U.S. version of this book would be, “Call CPS.” Step 2 would look like this:
5. Cold things
Another section gave stern warnings about eating cold things such as ice cream or watermelon because it would give you a tummyache.
A bad enough tummyache that you’d see the doctor and be crying in pain the whole time.
I was really confused by this when we first moved to China. We—kids and adults alike—got lots of warnings about how eating or drinking cold things would give you stomachaches or stomach cramps. Try telling that to the Americans as they guzzle their iced coffee, ice blendeds, popsicles, ice cream, sodas with ice, iced tea…geez, “cold things” are practically one of our basic food groups.
6. Behaving properly while getting an IV
This is probably tough for anyone outside of China to understand, but IVs are a basic part of childhood in the Middle Kingdom. So, I can totally see why there were a couple pages in the workbook devoted to learning proper IV behavior. At some point, every Chinese child will find themselves spending a week going to the hospital each and every morning to be stuck to an intravenous drip for an hour or so. If your mom is savvy, she’ll put the IV bag on a laundry hanging stick and you can walk outside to get noodles. If the hospital is a nice one, you’ll have unstained recliners to sit in and a working TV on the wall so you can watch cartoons. You gotta hope for the best, kid.
Could Go Either Way
7. Don’t run with hot soup.
Absolutely true! But in general, American schools don’t have the teacher cooking a giant vat of soup over an open flame with kids running in to help serve the food.
8. We should not play in mining tunnels.
I have no doubt every American parent and educator would agree on this safety tip. However, I wonder how many would think it necessary to put into a basic safety education book for young kids, especially accompanied by a picture of a panicking purple boy shaking with fright as the tunnel is threatening to collapse.
9. “Stranger Danger”
Same goes for child abduction scenarios. When I was in elementary school, we had a cute little cartoon pony telling us to say “neigh, neigh!” to strangers. The pony never mentioned a knife.
Nor was there a terrified girl hiding behind a tree when a stranger broke into the school grounds.
Yup, definitely some cultural differences to be found right here in the pages of a preschool safety manual. I think it gives expats of any age a little insight into what the culture thinks is important to teach to even very young children.
Let's do this again, shall we?