Teaching Traffic Safety To Children

— Bananas Inc.
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

The old adage Stop, Look and Listen is still good advice to give when teaching traffic safety to children. Here are some additional tips to assist you in discussing this very important, lifesaving topic.

For the Very Young

Begin at the beginning: very young children have no real understanding of cars, streets or traffic. Start very simply by explaining how fast cars move, how difficult it is for drivers to see children (visual aids help here – stand a small child up beside a parked car to show how BIG a car is) and how streets are off-limits. Repetition is the key – make every trip outside a traffic lesson. And, of course, never leave a young child alone near a street. For the very young, make one simple but absolute rule – never go in the street without an adult. Make a fuss even if your toddler steps off the curb without you. Hopefully your child will soon understand that the curb is the beginning of the street. Don’t hesitate or feel guilty about being very firm.

As Children Get Older

Teach traffic safety through games and rhymes. To help a child learn to recognize and pay attention to corners, you can ask your preschooler to do something dramatic every time you come to a corner during a walk (i.e. squat down, blow a whistle, etc.). To relieve your own anxiety in parking lots, try having a child (or group of children) touch your car until you give the “password” and are ready to take hands. Holding a child’s hand is always best, if possible, but if a hand isn’t available, ask your child to hold on to your pant leg, the grocery cart or a younger sibling's stroller.

Use rhymes like these even with the very young:

Stop, look and listen
Before you cross the street.
First use your eyes,
Then use your ears,
Before you use your feet.

The red’s on top
The green’s below
The red means stop
The green means go
The yellow light is in between
and it means no crossing.

Say it over and over! Take time. Insist that your child look both ways with you before crossing the street. Let the child be the “lookout” who says when it’s safe to cross. Set the example by always walking, never running, across an intersection. And, don’t jaywalk.

Traffic Signals

Don’t make a child too dependent on traffic signals. Explain carefully and often that not all drivers follow the signals and that everyone should look carefully in BOTH DIRECTIONS even when crossing with a signal. The rule “Look, Look and Look” (looking to the left, right and then the left again) is a good drill to remember. Teach your child not to cross the street if the light is already green when he or she approaches the intersection. Instead, s/he should wait for the “new green” so that there is adequate time to cross safely. Some of the newer traffic signals count down the time remaining to cross the street. Teach your child to start crossing the street before the countdown begins.

Safe Play

Teach your child never to go into a street to retrieve a toy. Children should wait at the curb until you or another adult comes and gets the toy. Teach “Curb the Urge to Dash Across” to drive home the point that children should wait at the curb, not chase balls into traffic. Make sure children play in safe places away from traffic, preferably in fenced yards or playgrounds.

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