Road Rules For Small Children

Published: 02nd May 2012
Views: N/A

Some people walk to bring their children to their Montessori early childhood centre; others don't. But most parents of young children will walk somewhere at some time, even if it's just down to the corner store. And it's important to teach your children about safety - and keep them safe - when you do.

As Maria Montessori would have said, a child's environment is an important part of a child's education, the process by which they get the skills to become competent adults. When you go places on foot, this gives them a chance to learn about road safety that will stand them in good stead. You might think that this is obvious, but this writer once had the privilege of seeing some young children who had been living on the mission field in rural Africa when they came back to an urban setting: they didn't have a clue about not running onto the road without looking or anything of that type.

Road safety skills are important things to learn as a part of what your Montessori educator will call "self care". The day when your child will be able to cross the road unaided and/or go to the shops on an errand for you is still a long way off, but the skills learned during the preschool years will end with him/her having these skills.

Road safety starts even when your child is still small enough to go everywhere in a stroller or pushchair most of the time. But don't forget that learning starts here: your child will be watching and listening to everything you do. Naturally, you will have taken the precautions of making sure that the child wears a harness in the stroller - you might be able to teach him/her to do it up solo, depending on the style of harness closure and the ability of the child. You should be talking about what's around you when you're strolling through the neighbourhood - this helps the child learn language and to classify the world around them. Along with this "Look at the pretty red roses in Mrs Jones's garden," commentary, make sure that you comment on what you're doing when you cross the road. Every Montessori teacher knows that explanation while the child observes the process is an important part of the learning process.

Your child won't always stay in a stroller, and before long, he or she will be walking along with you. This is an exciting stage of freedom for him or her, and for you (no more pushing!). However, this is where you have to establish a number of important safety rules. Your child doesn't have to stay holding your hand the whole time and can be allowed some freedom to run ahead or behind. But some good rules that have literally been road-tested can include the following:

1 Only run as far ahead as the next driveway and then stop until you get the OK from Mum or Dad, as cars can come out of or go into the driveway when you don't expect them.

2 Always stop at the side of the road and hold Mum or Dad's hand (or the side of the stroller if you have another, younger child riding in it) while crossing the road.

3 Don't try to touch dogs if you see them through a fence - they might look friendly, but they might try to defend their property from small intruders with a snap of the teeth.

4 Don't get more than one lamppost ahead of or behind Mum/Dad - you have to be able to hear commands to stop.

5 Leave broken glass and dog poop alone. However, children can be encouraged to pick up litter of the plastic or paper type and put it in a plastic bag to take back home to be properly disposed of. This is a way of being a good citizen and part of your community, and reinforces the Montessori principle of being tidy and ordered.

If your child breaks these rules, tell them off (even if people are watching - nobody's going to censure you for obviously being a good parent) and remove the privilege of running free - and the child has to stay by your side, possibly holding your hand, for the rest of the journey. These rules also apply to small children on tricycles or little scooters. But remember to let your children go a bit further away from you if you get to a park or a safe walkway that doesn't have driveways - it's good for helping them learn a bit of independence and it's good exercise for them.

When it comes to crossing roads, it's a good idea to expose your children to a wide range of crossing styles, if you neighbourhood within walking distance allows for this. If you're lucky, you will be able to get ordinary mid-block crossings, crossings near intersections, zebra crossings and traffic lights. Teach your children to recognise each of these and explain the safe procedure. And make sure that you model good crossing behaviour without taking stupid risks or jaywalking (did you know that in Hong Kong, if you don't cross properly with the traffic lights, you get fined?). Your children are watching you and learning from you all the time.

Unlike other activities that your child will have a go at in their Montessori early learning centre, crossing the road is something that your child won't be able to have a go at solo for quite a long time. Crossing the road is not self-correcting and a mistake can be fatal. However, a parent can start helping the child with process of deciding when to cross the road. This is where you stop at the kerb and ask your child if it's safe to cross yet. If they think it's safe to cross and they are right, you cross the road with the child holding your hand. If it's safe to cross but your child doesn't think so, you stay put (and swallow your frustration). If the child says it's not safe to cross and it really isn't safe to cross, tell them they're right and stay put. If they say it's safe and it isn't, point out the hazard they've missed. Eventually, they will learn and be able to make the decisions correctly and safely.


Friday's Child Montessori has more ideas for helping your preschooler's learning. (Click now to get SEO for real readers, not robots, using Semantic Writing by Rick Rakauskas)

Report this article Ask About This Article

More to Explore