Today my daughter and I were walking into the garage. We have a two door garage, one is manual. As I was pulling the door up she ran under it, my hand faltered. NOTHING HAPPENED. I caught it, things were fine. After a few deep breathes to calm myself down, I decided this was one of those "teachable lesson" moments.
I had a large bag of apples with me since we were coming home from the grocery store. I explained to her the door was heavy, so heavy that it could hurt her if it fell on her. Then I showed her the apple and reminded her mommy has to use a knife to cut the apple in the kitchen, and then I lightly dropped it on the ground so she could see that it doesn't break open (kinda crossing my fingers on that one). I told her we were going to see what the heavy garage door could do to the apple. I placed the apple down and let the door fall on it from less than half way up. BAM, APPLE SAUCE!
My three-year-old daughter jumped back wide-eyed. I raised the door and showed it to her better. I said to her, "if it hurt the apple that bad, do you think it could hurt you?" She stood there and after a second more staring at the apple she said, "yes." Then we talked about how she can only go under the door when Mommy says it's safe. I hope the talk sticks with her, but in the mean time, I at least feel better. I didn't get an important lesson slip past me even though I was exhausted and hungry.
I'm a firm believer in teaching children healthy fears about mortality. Sometimes it's by example (apple), sometimes its by experience (letting her face go under the water in a pool). I think I could do the same stunt for other things like dangers of cars, climbing, etc. ... I will make sure I spread it out though. I don't want her to come home one day with a giant mallet, $20 in fruit, carrying a Gallagher poster. But until I catch her with a watermelon telling me she's just, "hanging out." I think I found a good way to explain a few of life's dangers to her.