Teaching kids CPR for emergencies could save thousands of lives each year, according to an article published in The Lancet. In countries where CPR training is mandatory in schools, lay resuscitation occurs 60-75% of the time, compared to 20-40% in countries where school children do not learn CPR.
When provided with the necessary skills, children and teens can even save lives before they reach adulthood. One Arizonan 13-year-old saved his baseball coach’s life by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The only questions are how and when to teach it.
At What Age Should Children Learn CPR?
According to research from ABC News, nearly 9 out of 10 children aged 9-18 could perform CPR correctly after participating in hands-on training. However, because physical strength is also a factor in delivering chest compressions effectively, the European Resuscitation Council recommends teaching CPR to children 12 years of age and above. In many U.S. states, AED training requirements mandate CPR for high school students.
Why Teach Kids Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid Skills?
Young children don’t have the necessary strength to perform chest compressions on an adult. However, there are still several benefits to teaching CPR and first aid to kids. In first aid and CPR courses, children will learn:
- How to recognize medical emergencies, including cardiac arrest and heart attack
- How to contact the emergency medical services
- How to stay calm in an emergency situation
- How to apply basic first aid skills with confidence
Lifesaving Skills All Kids Should Learn
Whether the training is delivered in class or in a community venue, school children should learn a range of life-saving skills that they can use at home, at school, and in the wider community. In addition to resuscitation with chest compressions and rescue breaths, children should learn:
- How to stop a bleed
- How to apply the Heimlich maneuver to choking victims
- How to operate an AED
- The correct AED pad placement for children and adults
Tips for Teaching CPR in the Classroom
If you are a qualified trainer who is interested in delivering a CPR course to students, it’s important to adapt the content to suit the way that children learn. If you teach the class using best-practice techniques, not only will the children be much more excited to get involved, but they are also more likely to remember the skills that are taught in the class.
Make It Interactive
Performing CPR is a hands-on skill, and teaching kids CPR should be too. When teaching CPR and first aid in schools, give students repeated opportunities to practice each skill and receive feedback on their technique.
Young children also have a much shorter attention span than adults. For younger children especially, you will need to break the class up into short segments—depending on the total length of the class—and give the kids a chance to refresh by changing activities, doing some stretches, or learning a CPR-related song-and-dance.
Set Clear Boundaries
When taken out of their usual routine, children are more likely to act up. As the instructor, you will need to be proactive in setting the rules and expectations for the CPR class, such as:
- Phones should be put away.
- The students must raise their hands to respond.
- All of the equipment must be treated with care.
If you set clear boundaries and model appropriate behavior yourself (such as by turning off your phone during the class), things will flow much more smoothly and you might even have time to cover the material in more depth.
The other side of the discipline coin is providing fun incentives. For example, you could give stickers, pencils, or treats to young students who ask a great question, provide a correct answer, or put in a lot of effort to learn.
For older high-school-aged kids, you’ll need to consider different types of incentives, such as extra credit or participation points (assuming you’re teaching CPR as part of a health class). Observe each student directly, and make sure they understand the essentials.
Recommended Training Tools for Teaching Kids CPR
To deliver a CPR and first aid course effectively, we recommend several tools for hands-on practice, including:
- A first aid kit
- Anti-choking trainer
- Trainer AED
Most CPR course providers offer a school training kit that certified instructors can take with them to use in the classroom. This school training kit will contain all of the tools that you need for a group of 10 to 20 students.
Recommended AEDs for Schools
When teaching kids CPR, it’s also a good idea to teach the students how to use an automated external defibrillator — especially if the students are at least high-school age. Research shows that AED use combined with CPR can more than double a patient’s odds of survival, and many high schools already have an AED on site that bystanders can use in an emergency.
For schools, two of the most recommended models are the Physio-Control LIFEPAK CR2 and the Cardiac Science Powerheart G5 due to their simple operation, pediatric functionality, and bilingual capabilities. Please note that, for training purposes, you will want to acquire a trainer version of the AED, such as the Cardiac Science Powerheart G5 AED Trainer.
For more information, check out our guide to how to choose the best AED for schools.
States in Which Teaching Kids CPR Is and Isn’t Mandatory
CPR training is currently mandatory for high school graduation in every state except:
- New Hampshire
Even though it isn’t mandatory to teach kids CPR in these states, courses may still be available for children and teens. The more people that know how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the better the chances that a victim of sudden cardiac arrest will survive.
Summing Up: CPR Saves Lives, and So Can Our Children
Teaching CPR to children and teens is one of the most powerful tools available to reduce death rates from sudden cardiac arrest. The better trained a population is, the more likely that a bystander will step in and perform lifesaving techniques to keep the victim alive until emergency medical services arrive.
If you are a CPR instructor with an interest in empowering the community, equip yourself with the knowledge, tools, and certifications needed to teach CPR to kids. It’s an important investment in our children today that may end up saving a life.