Read That Label

Lesson Objective:

Teach children that some substances, like cleaners and medicines, can be harmful if they are used the wrong way.

Students will understand that some cleaners and medicines that are good for you can be harmful if they are taken or used the wrong way. They will be able to identify medicines in the house and understand what to do and what NOT to do with these substances. They will also understand how important it is to read labels before they use a product.

Teacher narrative:

A poison is something that will hurt a person if it is:

  • USED THE WRONG WAY, for example, mixing different cleaning products can make a poisonous gas. It’s important to always read the label before using any product to make sure it is being used correctly. 
  • USED BY THE WRONG PERSON, for example, your little brother may like the sweet flavored cold medicine that is sitting on the counter and he reaches it and drinks it. You should never take medicine that belongs to someone else and never take medicine by yourself. Always read the label and follow the directions. 
  • USED IN THE WRONG AMOUNT, for example, if someone took too much medicine. Medicine only works if it is used correctly. Medicine helps us to get well when we are sick, if taken properly. All medicines have directions on their labels and those directions must be followed carefully.

Teacher Instructions:

Before the lesson, collect empty medicine bottles or packages, cleaning bottles, aerosol cans, laundry or dishwasher detergent, perfume bottles, etc. to show children. You can also print out pictures of labels found on medicines or cleaning products. Make sure that whatever you bring into the classroom is empty and safe for children to handle.

A. Reading Labels30 minutes

Many people do not take the time to read labels on cleaners and medicine packages. These labels give us important information about how to use the product safely! 

Directions and safety information may start with words like these: 

  • Caution 
  • Warning 
  • Beware 
  • Hazardous 
  • Fatal
  • Flammable  
  • Toxic 
  • Harmful 
  • Danger
  • Poison 

We call these “caution” words. These words are used to tell us something is dangerous and should be used very carefully. Before touching or tasting anything, you should ask a grownup. 


  1. Divide children into pairs. Give each pair two empty containers.
  2. Write the list of “caution” words on the whiteboard. Instruct each group to look for “caution” words on each of the containers. 
  3. After the groups have finished identifying their “caution” words, ask one from each group to come up and put a check on the board next to the word they found. 
  4. After all the groups have checked off the words they found, discuss what these words mean. 
  5. Have students tell what they learned about their particular label. How should they take or use the substance? Remind students that this needs to be done with adult supervision. 

B. Just Suppose/Reflection Activity15 minutes

Have students reflect on the following situations: 

  1. Suppose you were playing in your home and you found a box of pills or a bottle of medicine open with the cap off. What would you do? Why? 
  2. Suppose you found your baby brother or sister playing with a cleaner or detergent. What would you do? Why? 
  3. Suppose you found a soda bottle in the garage. It looks like apple juice. Would you taste it? Why or why not? 
  4. Suppose you found a bush with pretty red berries on it. Would it be okay to eat any of the berries? Why or why not?