Top tips on teaching your child the rules of the road, and beyond.
There’s more to keeping kids safe than just following traffic signs. Providing a consistent emphasis on the importance of safety will give your child the awareness, confidence, and skills they’ll need to be safe when out and about.
BE A ROLE MODEL
Your mini-me looks to you to as an example of how to act and behave, so whether you’re on foot, on a bike, or driving, you should always act responsibly. If you walk them to school, take the safest route. Show them how to stop, look both ways and back, and then step off the sidewalk. Avoid dangers you don’t want them repeating, such as making a dash across a busy street. Instead, make the effort to cross at pedestrian crossings or crosswalks. Build a relationship with the crossing guard by introducing yourself and saying hello. This shows respect and that they should follow the crossing guards’ lead when it's time to cross.
TEACH STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN
Go through what each road sign and signal means (green light, yellow light, stop sign, school crossing, etc.). Then, teach them the "stop, look and listen" game. It’s exactly as it sounds: Before you step onto the road stop, look left, right, and left again, while listening for approaching cars or cyclists. If there are no cars or bikes, only then is it safe to step out.
TIP: If you reach a traffic light and there’s a countdown, it’s already too late to cross.
REPETITION AND PRACTICE
Let's be honest, constant safety quizzing from Mom and Dad can get annoying, but you’ll have to remind them that this is a life skill, and they’ll eventually be able to do this on their own. After you explain a safety rule, have them repeat it back to you in their own words so you know that they’ve understood it properly. If they’re wrong, gently explain what the sign means and exactly what they should do. Try to make it fun. Create a game where they have to guess the meaning of the sign. Or, make it into a song. For example:
Stop, look and listen
Before you cross the street.
First use your eyes,
Then, use your ears,
Before you use your feet.
And remember to always give praise when they get it right.
EXPLAIN HIDDEN DANGERS
Tell your child that there are sometimes ‘surprises’ on the road: driveways (some of them are hidden), parked cars, alleys and street corners. Using toy cars are a great way to illustrate to little ones what is happening, and what they should do, even before you leave the house. Also, explain the importance of helping drivers to see them. Make sure they wear an item of bright clothing, and make eye contact with the driver before it’s safe to step off the sidewalk or cross the street.
HELP THEIR CONFIDENCE GROW
Praise them when they cross the road successfully. As they get older, have them walk ahead to ‘show you’ how they can do it themselves and how they keep safe (we recommend following at a safe distance—about 10 to 15 feet—behind). When they’re ready, allow them to play in front of the house, then play down the street. Encouraging independent behavior will help your growing child think for themselves, and only then will road and traffic rules become second nature.