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Crisis and Disaster Preparedness

Crisis and Disaster Preparedness

Children may become confused, frightened, or depressed in the wake of tragedies, such as natural disasters or violent attacks. The United States has, unfortunately, experienced several crises and disasters over the past several years, which makes it even more important for parents, teachers, and caregivers to know how to help children cope during and after these events.

Kaplan Early Learning Company hopes you never have to use the helpful tips and free resources we have provided, but we also know that preparedness is an important tool in knowing how to react and ensuring children's emotional well-being now and in the future. For a more in-depth look at topics related to crisis and disaster preparedness, feel free to browse through the variety of tools we offer to help you better understand how to help children cope with tragedies.

What You Can Do


To help ensure children's emotional well-being in times of crisis, Kaplan Early Learning Company encourages parents, teachers, and caregivers to BE LOUDER than children's fears and what they may hear or see in the media. Outside influences play a major role in what children think and feel about certain events. A child's previous experiences also play a role in how a child reacts and copes with a tragedy. Children who witness or are victims of abuse, for example, may have a more negative or extreme reaction to an act of violence. Making an effort to BE LOUDER than the other influences that affect a child's life will help children better cope with a crisis or disaster:

Listen - If the children in your care are at the age where they can express their feelings vocally, listen to any concerns or fears they may have about a natural disaster, violent attack, or other tragedy that occurs. Let children know that it is okay for them to express their fear, sadness, or anger with you or another caretaker. Providing a comfortable place for children to express their fears is a great step forward in helping children learn to cope with traumatic events.

Observe - Observing a child's actions and their emotional state is another way to measure the impact an event has had on a child, especially if the child has not yet reached the age where they would be comfortable expressing their concerns vocally. Routine is very important to a child's health, so any changes in a child's behavior, appetite, or sleep patterns could be a sign that they are struggling to cope with a traumatic event.

Understand - Understanding that each child will express his or her emotions differently and will have different coping mechanisms is extremely important in helping children learn how to cope with a tragic event. Children react differently to being afraid, sad, or angry, and they may need help from parents or other adults to learn how to express their feelings appropriately and put them into a healthier perspective. The coping process takes time, so be patient with children as they learn how to positively and effectively deal with traumatic events.

Discuss - Discussing the crisis or disaster with the children in your care is one of the best things you can do to ensure their emotional well-being. It is best for parents to tell children that the event occurred before they hear it from someone else. Teachers should give parents advance notice if the tragedy will be discussed in the classroom. This gives parents a chance to talk with their child first. Being proactive and explaining what happened, even in the simplest of terms, can help children better cope with the crisis or disaster. Cathy Grace and Elizabeth Shores recommend using literature-based activities to help children cope with traumatic events and regain feelings of security in After the Crisis: Using Storybooks to Help Children Cope. If a child is older, be prepared to answer any questions they may have about what happened or is going to happen. A more in-depth conversation is appropriate for older children, especially if they have specific concerns or suggestions to prevent any similar disasters. Encouraging children to do something to help the victims of a tragedy or the rescue responders involved can also help them cope with their feelings about the event.

Empathize - Empathizing with children will also help them feel more comfortable with sharing their feelings about the crisis or disaster. Letting them know that you understand why they would feel that way validates their concerns but also gives you a chance to help children understand what is reality and fantasy. Try to show children that tragedies can also bring people together and use the discussion as an opportunity to teach children the value of working together to rebuild or overcome something traumatic.

Reassure - You should make every effort to reassure children that they are safe. You can also reassure them that other people they know are safe if that statement is true. Remind them that emergency workers, police, firefighters, and other trustworthy adults are helping people and trying to ensure that another crisis or disaster does not happen. Keeping children on a reasonably normal schedule is another great way to reassure them that everything will be okay. Spending extra time reading or playing games with children will also give them a sense of normalcy and reassurance. In The Crisis Manual for Early Childhood Teachers, Karen Miller reminds adults that children may think they caused the traumatic event in some way or caused an adult to become anxious or upset. Try to address your own feelings about the tragedy before you discuss it with the children in your care because they will feel safer if you are calm and controlled when talking about the crisis or disaster.

Free Resources

Online Articles

"A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope" (NASP)

"Coping With Disaster" (FEMA)

"Coping With Disasters" (NAEYC®)

"Helping Children Cope With Tragedy Related Anxiety"

"Helping Children Deal with Tragic Events in the News"

"School Violence Prevention: Tips for Parents and Educators" (NASP)


  • Crisis Manual for Early Childhood Teachers
    Crisis Manual for Early Childhood Teachers
    • Item Number: 33673
    • In Stock
    Provides insight on identifying and responding to problems, working with parents, and seeking help with issues such as death, sexual abuse, divorce, natural disasters, and more. 382 pages.
  • After the Crisis - Paperback
    After the Crisis - Paperback
    • Item Number: 18268
    • In Stock
    The literature-based activities in this book help children who have been through a trauma. With activities and exercises that can be used in conjunction with 50 children's books, teachers can use the discussion starters, writing activities, and art activities to promote children's ability to cope and heal. Addresses numerous crises that can affect a child, including earthquakes, epidemics and mass casualty incidents, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and major storms, shelter experiences, volcanic… More »
  • Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure
    Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure
    • Item Number: 20225
    • In Stock
    Now more than ever, adults must help children develop the skills necessary to navigate through life successfully. By focusing on building social and emotional strength, we increase children's resilience and prepare them to handle the challenges in life. The strategies and activities in "Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure" help children become socially and emotionally healthy for life. Organized into five chapters, the activities support and build resilience in children ages 3 to 8. 160 pages. Paperback.
  • Children's Books That Promote Resilience (Set of 14)
    Children's Books That Promote Resilience (Set of 14)
    • Item Number: 46793
    • Temporarily Out of Stock
    Titles include: Runaway Bunny, Allie's Basketball Dream, No David, I Want It, I Can't Wait, When Sophie Gets Real Angry, The Carrot Seed, Bunnycakes, Owl Babies, Mommy Don't Go, Mean Soup, Cleversticks, Fox On A Box, and Lucky Song. (Kit book titles may change due to availability. We will only substitute book titles of the same value and purpose.)
  • Feelings Friend
    Feelings Friend
    • Item Number: 63012
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. This cuddly pal will help children identify and feel comfortable with their emotions. Feelings Friend has an assortment of facial features in its front pouch and includes illustrated emotion cards, conversation starters, and a social-emotional development guide. Measures 12" high.
  • Emotion Tiles - Set of 20
    Emotion Tiles - Set of 20
    • Item Number: 63685
    • In Stock
    12 months & up. Children can recognize, identify, and match familiar emotions with this set of 20 tiles that depict real images of a variety of feelings. Engaging with the Emotion Tiles will promote the development of: Confidence, Curiosity, Cooperation, Acceptance, Communication, and Self-regulation. Made with safe, durable material that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
  • Emotion Stones (Set of 12)
    Emotion Stones (Set of 12)
    • Item Number: 62918
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. This beautifully crafted set of tactile stones is engraved with faces showing 12 common emotions. Stones are durable in sand and water, indoors and out, providing opportunities to explore emotions across different environments. Set of 12 stones measure 2 1/4" wide each.
  • My Feelings Carpet - 4' x 6'
    My Feelings Carpet - 4' x 6'
    • Item Number: 62919
    • Temporarily Out of Stock
    Encourage children to identify their feelings and understand the relationship between their actions and other's responses with the My Feelings Carpet. Children will be able to relate to each of the ten emotions (happy, embarrassed, surprised, worried, angry, proud, shy, confused, scared, and sad). Measures 4' x 6'.
  • Photo Real Emotions Puzzles of Children - Set of 8
    Photo Real Emotions Puzzles of Children - Set of 8
    • Item Number: 71435
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. Full color, photographic images help children to identify and label their emotions. Being able to identify their different emotions allows your child to develop an emotional vocabulary so they can talk about their feelings. These puzzles are a great way discuss feelings and helps kids learn how to recognize other people's feelings through facial expressions.
  • Emotions Magnets - Set of 8
    Emotions Magnets - Set of 8
    • Item Number: 62922
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. This set of eight magnetic children's faces range in emotions, allowing children to experience and identify with others. Measures 3 3/4" x 5".
  • Emotion-oes Board Game
    Emotion-oes Board Game
    • Item Number: 62921
    • In Stock
    4 years & up. A new twist on the long beloved game of dominoes. Learning games are a perfect tool for engaging children in the development of social skills. Includes 56 emotion-oes cards.
  • Emotions Felt Set
    Emotions Felt Set
    • Item Number: 62572
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. Teaching emotional literacy helps children develop social skills by recognizing and responding to social cues appropriately. Children can interpret their own emotions by matching "feeling" words with pictures. Actual photographs printed on felt. 12 pictures, 12 feeling words, 6 page lesson guide. Average figure 6" tall.
  • Giant Emotions Stamp Set (Set of 10)
    Giant Emotions Stamp Set (Set of 10)
    • Item Number: 30751
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. 3" rubber stamps with comfort grip handles and see-thru top for ease in placement. Includes 10 emotions: happy, sad, sick, surprised, content, tired, confused, mad, nervous, and scared.
  • What Happened To My World Book - Paperback
    What Happened To My World Book - Paperback
    • Item Number: 12073
    • In Stock
    What Happened To MY World? Helping Children Cope With Natural Disaster and Catastrophe is a resource for parents, and anyone working with children to help them understand their confusion, fears and grief. It is written to help with both survivors as well as those who witness from a distance.
  • Eggspression
    • Item Number: 84121
    • In Stock
    2 years & up. Unscramble the confusion of emotions with this innovatively designed figure set! With the Eggspressions Figure and Book Set, children can learn to communicate their feelings effectively. Features six egg figures, each representing a different emotion that kids can use to express their own emotions when they can't find the words. Made with wood sourced from environmentally sustainable forest and durable child-safe paint finish.
  • All About Me Mirrors (Set of 4)
    All About Me Mirrors (Set of 4)
    • Item Number: 30707
    • In Stock
    3 years & up. The perfect accessory for dramatic play! Always look your best, check your facial features and discover different emotions with this set of 4 mirrors. Features a dry erase board on back and a face that can be filled in to look just like you.
  • First Aid Fanny Pack
    First Aid Fanny Pack
    • Item Number: 30314
    • In Stock
    The convenience of having first aid supplies at your side. The fanny pack includes 10 alcohol pads, 16 - 1"x3" bandages, 2 pair of latex gloves, 10 sting relief pads, 6 - 2" x 3" elbow/knee bandages, instant cold pack and first aid guide. Great for field trips and outdoor playgrounds. Made in the USA.
  • Emotion Bears - Set of 4
    Emotion Bears - Set of 4
    • Item Number: 63517
    • In Stock
    Birth & up. Children will relate to this loveable set of bears and matching blanket that encourage social and emotional development. The four soft and colorful bears will help children identify and label the common emotions of happy, sad, angry, and scared. Each bear is 11" tall. Machine washable.


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