Teaching CPR to Kids

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This is a guest post by Steve Lichtenberg. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Can you teach children CPR?

The short answer is yes. There are a few differences when teaching children as opposed to adults. Children will take the whole process very seriously and are more than willing to try whatever you ask of them. They often learn much differently from adults though.

How old (how young)?

How young is too young though? There really isn’t a “too young”. Yes, very young kids are not physically strong enough to compress an adult chest adequately but they can certainly understand that something is very wrong and help needs to be called. If nothing else, the youngest can definitely call 911 and tell the dispatcher what is going on. Around nine or ten kids have the physical strength to accomplish good chest compressions.

Some considerations that need to be taken into account when teaching kids are:

  • Children have a much shorter attention span than adults. The younger the child, the shorter the attention span. Take frequent breaks and keep each skill session short. Five to ten minutes on one topic is just about right.
  • Kids are eager to please. Celebrate their mastery of each skill segment.
  • Children are generally not afraid of learning the skill or of “hurting” a patient. They have no preconceived ideas of what should be happening so they are just willing to help.
  • There will be giggling and laughter when you use words that are common to learning CPR. If you say words like “nipple” or “bra”, expect them to get a kick out of it. Give them their fun but bring them back to the instruction quickly.
  • Don’t over-teach. Explain just what they need to know at each step. You don’t need a lot of detail as you will lose them.
  • Get down on the floor with them. If they see you demonstrating skills and correcting on a one-to-one basis, they will excel quickly.
  • Provide a snack. CPR is work and growing bodies need refueling.
  • Ten to twelve-year olds, especially girls, are starting to think about babysitting. Teaching infant and child CPR is usually of benefit. If possible, split the session into multiple days. One day for adult/child skills and another for infants.
  • Younger kids probably won’t know the traditional songs we use to help people learn how fast 100 beats per minute. Use songs they know like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (A-B-C song)”.
  • If certification is not a priority, teach hands-only CPR. Pocket masks and/or mouth to mouth breathing is very difficult for little hands. They can not easily get a good seal on certain manikins which will lead to frustration.

What are your tips for teaching kids CPR? Share with me and others in the comments area.

These tips will help you understand younger learners and be a better instructor when teaching them. Kids have a well-developed sense of fairness and empathy for others. They very much want to help someone who is injured or sick. Showing them that they are not too young to “save a life” will get them thinking about their role in the community. When they are older, they will be much more willing to help someone out because of the exposure they got when they were young.

Steve has been a CPR instructor for six years. After becoming a wilderness first responder instructor trainer, he decided it was time to give back to the community and is now a volunteer EMT in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He is working to become an instructor at the academy and furthering his EMS career through additional training. Visit his blog or connect with him on Twitter, @slichten01