Teach Your Preschooler Street Safety Skills
Teaching children street smarts starts early, says Mark Fenton, author of "The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weigh Loss and Fitness" and a walkable community consultant. Keep toddlers and preschoolers away from the street entirely except when holding a parent's or caregiver's hand. By kindergarten, focus on walking along the street together and street crossing. Around fourth grade, introduce safe bicycling.
"Following some basic safety tips will help build the habits necessary for parents to feel comfortable letting their children walk to a friend's house or school later on," says Fenton.
Street Safety Skills
Fenton recommends working on these skills:
- Teach your child to look both ways but also in front and behind for cars.
- Choose the safest routes with the fewest crossings. Fast streets should be avoided.
- Always use sidewalks or paths and walk as far from traffic as possible.
- Walk facing traffic.
- Look for cars pulling in or out of driveways, explaining that the drivers might not be able to see pint-sized walkers.
- Walk -- don't run -- across a street.
- Use cross walks and obey traffic signals.
If your child will walk to school, consider joining or initiating a "walking bus" where parents (one adult to every three children) volunteer to walk children to and from school, suggests Fenton, who's also a consultant for the National Center for Safe Routes to School. This organization is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation Highway Safety Administration.
By age 10, the walking bus can become a bike train of students cruising to school or the corner store together.