Making children aware of road safety from a very young age is important. Roads are busy and unpredictable. Trying to navigate your way through cars, cyclists and pedestrians can be confusing and somewhat daunting. Making sure that everyone uses the roads in a safe manner and abides by the stipulated rules is paramount to ensure everyone’s safety.
So as parents, what can you do to teach your children about road safety in a fun, engaging way?
Talk to Your Children
Whenever you are walking to the park, or driving to school, talk to your children about road safety. Even the simplest repetitions will soon become integrated into their natural thinking process.
- “We always look left and right before crossing a road”
- “Always hold my hand when we walk anywhere”
- “Seat belts keep you safe”
Remember to always say these phrases in a positive way. “Seat belts keep you safe” will be articulated in a child’s mind in a very different way to: “You must wear your seat belt because I said so”.
Be a Good Role Model
Teaching your children road safety means always being a good role model for what safe looks like. Children learn a lot from what they view their parents doing on a daily basis. You cannot insist that your child needs to wear their safety belt when you don’t wear yours. And being too busy or too late to practice good road safety is never an acceptable excuse. Children will very quickly realise that what you are saying is not aligned with what you are doing. And please parents, don’t use your cell phone while driving. Not only does this convey a negative message about being safe on the roads, but it places your family in unnecessary risk.
Teach Them the Signs
Helping children to recognise and understand the various road signs from a young age will make them more aware to be on the lookout for them when they start to cycle to school independently and one day drive their own car. It is also a fun way to engage with your child. You can make a game out of it so they begin to form a positive perception of road signs. The last thing we want is rebellious teenagers who view road signs as a way to be defiant. Road rules need to be respected and adhered to at all times. Road signs serve as warnings of any potential hazards that are approaching, so teaching children to actively look for these signs will equip them to use the roads in a safe and protected way.
Yes, these can be extremely annoying once they’re stuck in your head all day at the office, but they are a fun way for young children to learn about and remember road safety rules. Songs for Teaching has a great variety of safety songs for children.
It is very important to remember that while children may insist that they know what you’ve drummed into them, they are still young, and therefore have not yet developed the critical cognitive skills needed to always keep them safe in an unexpected situation. Similarly, children tend to get easily distracted and are more focused on their toy than where their toy is. What does this mean? If a child is bouncing their ball in the driveway, and the ball bounces into the road, the child’s primary focus is the ball – not the potential hazards that may prevent him from safely fetching his ball. As parents, it is critical that we always remember this.
An 8-year old child will effortlessly recite the road rules to you and possibly get irritated with your constant nagging about their knowledge of road safety. But just because they are able to provide you with all the theoretical proof that they have heard and absorbed everything you have taught them, it does not automatically mean that they will know how to transfer that knowledge into a practical application. Young children are also not able to accurately determine the speed of an approaching vehicle, nor are they able to cope with sudden, unexpected changes in traffic conditions.
Teach your children how to be safe on the roads from a very young age. It is important to always teach them in a way that that promotes awareness and caution; not in a way that instils fear. We do not want our children to grow into adults that feel reluctant to drive and constantly anticipate accidents. Instead, we want to raise empowered and independent people who know how to effectively use the roads in a safe manner.