I love the flexibility of Smart Choices. The concept works for a variety of topics and is universal. On previous mission trips to Peru, I have covered situational awareness for teens and adults. On my October trip the folks with Make A Miracle ( https://www.makeamiracle.net/) wanted me to talk to younger kids in our Star Kids program. With the Smart Choices concept of using images, I was able to cover examples of dangers that kids everywhere share as well as some unique to their environment.
Despite a scheduling conflict that forced us outside and no way to project images we found printed pictures passed in front of them worked effectively and it was very gratifying when the kids started asking “what if” questions. Child abductions have been increasing in the area, so we spent extra time on dealing with strangers. When I showed one picture and discussed that bad people can often look nice one of the young boys asked, “can I hit them in the head with a big rock?.” I had to suppress a laugh and take the time to discuss the difference between can, may and should. It kept my translator busy as we worked to convey the concept, but we eventually got to where he understood that given the choice of running or trying to bash a much bigger person’s head in that avoidance would most often be the Smart Choice.
Most importantly the Smart Choices concept will continue as an ongoing part of our work with these children, and we have added another saying to use at the beginning of their weekly sessions: Los Star Kids toman Decisiones Inteligentes! (Star Kids make Smart Choices!)
I have attended The Complete Combatant’s Image Based Decisional Drills (IBDD) class with Brian and Shelley Hill at their beautiful range in Dahlonega, GA. It was fantastic and unlike any other self defense class I had ever taken before! One by one, Shelley presented students with a single image card, then based on the scenario depicted on your card, you had 5 seconds to interpret the image and then act in response to that image.
Sometimes the appropriate response was to apply a tourniquet and call 911. Sometimes it was to draw your firearm and stop a threat. Sometimes it was to simply flee the scene and run to safety. Sometimes it was to pepper spray an aggressor or to attempt to verbally de-escalate a situation. It was quite challenging and it revealed some shortcomings in a lot of students’ attitude, skills, and plan as self defenders. That was the best part about the entire class in my opinion – that even when a student didn’t respond to the scenario on their card in an ideal manner, the entire class talked through what actions might have been more appropriate instead and we all learned from each others’ mistakes. It was a phenomenal and unique learning experience for all!
I was so impressed with how eye-opening the class was that when I heard that Brian and Shelley were expanding on their IBDD class and developing a similar product geared for children, I was thrilled and knew that I wanted a set for my kids! That product is called Smart Choices.
Like the IBDD cards for adults, Smart Choices is an image based training tool for kids. However, instead of the time constraints, cognitive load and pressure testing integrated into the IBDD class, the Smart Choices cards encourage critical thinking and problem solving in a very calm, controlled environment. Smart Choices is intended to stimulate deep, thoughtful, age-appropriate conversations with kids. Each card is an opportunity to really connect with your kids about important issues and potentially dangerous situations they could find themselves in, and gives you a chance to be proactive in helping them know how to make smart choices when you aren’t around. You are supposed to take your time to discuss the image on each card in depth, and together you come up with wise safety practices for your whole family.
Smart Choices comes with an in-depth instruction booklet and 84 different image cards. Each image has been carefully selected, the images are professionally produced, and the cards are very high quality. You can even laminate them to make sure they will really last. On the back of each card are several helpful hints to help kickstart the discussion if needed. According to the Smart Choices website and booklet, the deck is designed for children ages 4-13, but even our adult son benefitted from it greatly!
As a homeschooling mom, I love that Smart Choices is so flexible and customizable, and I really appreciate how the cards allow parents/guardians to be in the driver’s seat to steer conversations. You get to decide the pace, which cards to introduce to your kids and when, and how deep you want to take the discussion on a particular topic.
With our youngest, for example, we approach Smart Choices as a sort of game. We keep it short and fun so that she doesn’t lose interest. With our older kids, though, we are able to take a much deeper dive into each topic. The conversations usually go off on multiple tangents and we often end up reviewing practical skills like verbal de-escalation, how to do CPR, how to properly apply a tourniquet, or the when/why/how of using pepper spray.
Smart Choices has helped us finetune and shore up holes we didn’t know we had in our family’s safety plan and practices. Our children get to explore different scenarios in the safety and comfort of their own home with the supervision, support, and guidance of the two people on the planet who love them more than anyone else does! It’s such an ingenious tool! If you want an effective, economical, adaptive, and durable product to introduce your children to safety education, a resource that you can visit again and again as your children grow, Smart Choices is exactly what you’ve been looking for!
Shelley is the creator of Smart Choices, a public speaker, and a supporter of THINKING AHEAD. Smart Choices BLOG is a mixture of stories, Q & A interaction, new thought provoking ideas, guest BLOGS/videos, and MORE!