Teaching Preschoolers About Earthquakes

We live near Ogden.

We live on the Wasatch Fault and we’re due for a magnitude 7+ earthquake sometime in the geologically near future. I have been told this over and over my whole life, but never really took it seriously. Now that I have kids, it changes my perspective.

So when I started reading about earthquakes in my geology course I’m taking this semester, it got me wondering about what we should do to prepare. From reading, I quickly learned that you can start teaching your children about what to do in an earthquake when they’re 3 or 4, possibly even sooner. The more I read, the more I realized that I needed to teach Peanut what to do if we have an earthquake. I need to take this seriously.

This last week, we started talking about earthquakes. It’s an ongoing process, but we have a start. For those of you who are in an earthquake-prone area, hopefully this information will help you teach your small humans what to do in the case of an earthquake, as well as yourself.

I started by reading all of the material myself. There’s this lovely guide called Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country that tells you everything about earthquakes, as well as the steps you need to take to live through one and get your life back in order. I suggest reading this when your children aren’t right next to you because it’s a lot of information and, for me, it was a fairly emotional experience. It’s difficult for me to think about losing my family and home.

Next, I started talking to Peanut about earthquakes. I explained to her that the earth could shake and we could get hurt. With her recent sensitivities to anything remotely scary, I tried to walk the fine line between getting her to take it seriously and not freaking her out. We watched these YouTube videos:


This was the first video was watched. It’s kind of difficult to understand the boy’s accent, but I liked it because it was serious and informative.

This one was fun and really made sure you have down the steps, but not very serious.

While watching the videos, she got very interested. I was surprised how fascinated she was with earthquakes in general. That’s the life of a preschooler through. Everything is new and exciting and sometimes scary. If you’d never heard of such a thing and someone told you that your whole house could shake uncontrollably and seemingly out of nowhere, I bet you’d be fascinated too. Since she was so interested in the phenomenon itself, we watched this National Geographic Earthquake Video to get more info on earthquakes in general.

After watching the videos, we talked about what to do if there’s an earthquake. She immediately remembered the “drop, cover, and hold” from the videos. We tried it out a few times and I talked about the intricacies of covering (e.g. cover your head, not just anywhere on your body). We talked about how we need to avoid big things that can fall on us (which, luckily, we don’t have many of because we’ve stabilized most fall-able furniture in our house and plan on stabilizing the rest in the near future). We also talked about how we need to try to get under a table, but if there’s not one around, just cover your head.

We then went through the house and practiced earthquakes in each room. We’d go in a room and I’d ask her where she thought we should go. Most of the time I ended up helping her decide where, but she connected the dots a few times by finding a table or telling me we should avoid the windows. We talked about the things we should avoid in each room in our house. Then we’d do an earthquake drill, which she thought was pretty fun. I would yell “Earthquake!!!” and pound on the floor or a piece of furniture to simulate the earth shaking. We’d all get down and wait until the earthquake was over. I’m pretty sure that this fun game was what kept her the most interested in the process.

We also talked about what to do if she is alone with sister in a room and there’s an earthquake. I would hope that the initial shakes would give me enough time to get to them, but if I’m downstairs switching laundry and they’re up in their room playing, I may not get there in time. We simulated her climbing on top of sister and covering both of their heads a couple of times (sister didn’t want to tolerate much more than that). We also went outside in the backyard and in the car to simulate earthquakes.

It’s been about a week since we first talked about earthquakes, but I bring them up probably about once a day to make sure she remembers. After a couple weeks, I’ll back off and just do drills every 6 months, as is recommended online. I just want to make sure it’s solidified in her mind first.

This week, we’re planning on making emergency kits. She’s pretty excited about it. We’re going to make backpacks for our house and for daddy’s work. We already have an emergency kit in the car (with more common emergency items like pjs for when we forget to bring any) that I’ll add some earthquake-specific things to. We’ve also discussed that, as a family, we meet at our house if there’s an emergency. Our second option is daddy’s work if we can’t get home, since it’s reasonable walking distance.

Do you live in an earthquake-prone area? If not, what are the most likely natural disasters near you? Have you done anything to prepare your children for them? 

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