Vacation Bible School Safety Precautions

Is your Vacation Bible School program as safe as it could be?

What could possibly happen when you combine a little glue and glitter along with energetic kids and well-meaning volunteers? A great experience, when you’re careful.

Vacation Bible School is a great way to introduce the children in your community to Christ. Take steps before the doors open on this outreach to ensure a safe and fun experience for all.

Staff for Safety

Screenings—VBS programs are only as good as the people who lead them. Be sure your staff and volunteers are screened properly before allowing them to be involved in this ministry. Some steps to include in your screening process: applications, reference checks, criminal background checks, and personal interviews.

Ratios—Maintaining appropriate staff-to-child ratios can be vital in preventing injuries and other incidents. In general, at least two adults should staff each area, no matter how few children are in it. Only allow screened teenage volunteers if they are working alongside properly screened adults. Require open viewing in all areas, at all times, either through windows or doors. Monitor restroom trips by having an adult check the restroom before children enter (to ensure it is empty) and then standing outside while in use.

Training—Train each staff member and volunteer in his or her designated area of responsibility. Ensure that each one knows what to do in an emergency.

Security—Every child in VBS should be registered, so you have record of the child’s and parents’ names, address, contact information, allergies, etc. You will also need to have a system for knowing who is authorized to pick up each child to ensure an unauthorized person does not try to take the child from your care.

Learn more about screenings or contact your agent for a resource about staff-to-child ratios and security.

Food and Sanitation

General Safety—Identify someone to be in charge of food safety. Snacks should be age appropriate to prevent choking. Food and drinks should be stored and served at appropriate temperatures—both to prevent scalding and to prevent food borne pathogens. In general, food should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. All children and adults should wash their hands before and after preparing, handling, and eating snacks and other food. Food prep areas should be cleaned and sanitized appropriately.

Allergies—Food allergies are serious. Children can have allergies to all sorts of foods and additives like nuts, dye, wheat, dairy, chocolate, and more. Be sure you have all known allergies documented for each child and ensure staff and volunteers adhere to restrictions for each child. You may want to consider using nametags for children that specifically identify food allergies. If a child has a reaction, be prepared to take immediate action.

Age Appropriate Spaces, Toys, and Activities

Spaces—Inspect each area with the ages of the children in mind. Look for and address potential hazards like outlets and cords in younger child areas.

Toys—Where there are children, there are toys. Ensure that the play environment is safe by only using age appropriate toys, and inspecting each toy for small, broken, or loose parts. Clean all toys daily with a safe disinfectant.

Activities—Crafts are fun, but not if they cause injuries like burns from hot glue guns or cuts from scissors. Pay attention to craft safety by evaluating your materials. Are your materials and glue non-toxic? Are your beads or other items a choking hazard? Are your scissors in the right hands?

Learn more about these topics in our checklist.

Decorations

Eye-catching decorations are a great way to establish a fun environment, but festive decor should never detract from safety. Remember to avoid placing decorations:

  • Near heat sources.
  • In a position that blocks access to fire extinguishers, fire alarm pulls, and other safety components.
  • In a position that blocks emergency exits or evacuation routes.

You may want to ask a local building inspector or fire department to walk through your facility to point out any potential trouble spots.

Going Outside

If your VBS takes advantage of outside time, be sure you do your homework first. Ensure playground equipment is properly maintained and safe. Be cautious when using inflatable play equipment. Watch out for bees. And, don’t forget the sunscreen.

You’ll find more information about playground safety and bounce houses by following these links.

First Aid

What a great ministry opportunity for a trained medical professional*. He or she can do an immediate assessment of any illness or injury and either administer first aid or take action to get additional medical help.

Regardless of whether or not you have a professional involved in your VBS program, you will need to have a staff member be the point of contact for all injuries, illnesses, allergies, medications, etc. This person should document all medical related incidents, and in the absence of a professional, should be trained in basic first-aid skills.

And, of course, don’t forget to have a first-aid kit on hand. Some items to consider in your first-aid kit:

  • Sterile gloves (be aware of latex allergies), compresses, and dressings
  • Cleansing agents
  • Antibiotic and burn ointments
  • Adhesive bandages and medical tape
  • Instant cold compress
  • Breathing barrier with one-way valve
  • Eye wash solution
  • Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Aspirin and non-aspirin pain relievers (adults may be sensitive or allergic to aspirin, and aspirin may be harmful to children)
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • First-aid manual
  • Emergency phone numbers

With a little planning and preparation you can help keep your VBS ministry both a work of art and a safe environment.