If any traffic is near to me.
Down the road I look as well
And listen for a horn or bell.
There’s something coming, wait a bit,
If I run out, I may be hit.
But now the road is really clear—
No cars or motor bus is near.
I run across the road so wide,
Hurrah! I’m safe on the other side.
My son sings this song whenever we walk on the road. Isn’t it fun to know that such simple lines have taught him to save himself from the biggest threat to urban lives? The threat of road accidents!
Safety on the road is something that engages children quickly. Think about traffic lights—don’t they enjoy learning about them? If we approach them early in lives, they’ll enjoy learning and will retain the lessons about road safety forever.
Moreover, “Attitude towards road safety is more important than knowing the rules,” says officer Shrikant, a traffic inspector with Mumbai Traffic Police. “Road accidents are more prevalent among the young because they take risks,” he adds.
To make learning road rules fun for our children and developing the right attitude for road safety, here are 6 things that we can do:
1) The rules of the game
Padma volunteers at Future Hope, a Kolkata-based NGO for kids, and believes that talking about road safety without teaching children the language of roads is pointless.
Language of roads!
- Names of streets like highway, main road, side lane, and so on.
- Safe corners and places on the roads like pavement, underpass, bridges, and zebra crossing.
- Names (read types) of vehicles.
- Define speed as very fast, not very fast, and slow-moving vehicles. Also, define at kilometre per hour and the speed at which vehicles move on a particular kind of street. For example: on a highway, vehicles can move as fast as 80 km per hour or more, whereas on a side lane or parking lane, 5-7 km per hour is the allowed speed.
Something to do
- Collect all the toy cars and other vehicles that your child owns. If you don’t have many, you can borrow a few from neighbours or friends just for this activity.
- On a large piece of chart, draw a road with two lanes.
- Place cars on the road and move them at a fast pace or slow pace when explaining the speed.
- Talk about maintaining lane discipline and not changing lanes when driving at a high speed.
- Make your child move the vehicles as per your instructions and he/she will understand road speed plus have fun.
My son moved his car off the chart at every turn, giving me a chance to explain dangerous speed to him. Try the activity and see how fast your child goes!
2) The riding rules
“Apart from rules of the road, there are rules of riding in a vehicle too.” Padma says that teaching children how to ride safely on a moving vehicle is also a part of road safety.
“My son keeps jumping on the back seat as I drive. I’ve learnt to ignore it and not let it distract me,” says Meera.
Her son, like other kids at four, fidgets a lot while riding in cars and while we can accommodate for sometime, there’s a lot more to it.
“I have a very interesting antidote, but it’s a little irritating for kids,” chuckles Padma. She says that teaching children about the irritation and distraction caused when you are in a moving vehicle can be best done when they watch TV.
“Every kid has one favourite programme or cartoon right?” asks Padma.
While the child is watching the favourite TV programme, she suggests that we keep moving in front of the TV. As we move, we can quickly whisper into the child’s ears, moving around the chair on which the child is sitting, and basically, distracting him/her. When children get irritated due to the distraction, you can explain to them that jumping and distracting in a moving vehicle feels the same for you.
“Trust me it works!” says Padma.
Mickey Mouse show, here I come to distract you!
3) Our sidewalk
“This one is a favourite at our NGO.”
Padma is talking about teaching children how to walk on the roads. Children can be kept safe and a lot of accidents can be avoided if they walk vigilantly on the roads. For this, we need to make them practice. How do we do that?
“We collect newspapers for a week to construct our pavements,” says Padma in a tone that show there’s a lot of fun in store.
“Stick the newspapers lengthwise back to back so that the corners of the room are outlined by it,” she explains.
These are like the pavements and the centre of the room is like an imaginary road.
What’s the game?
- Make the child walk on the newspaper pavement.
- If the child steps out of the newspaper then he/she loses a point.
- For every minute of walking properly on the pavement, he/she gains a point.
- As you play, talk to the child about safety on the roads and the risk of accidents if he/she steps off the pavement.
Take turns in playing this game and take my word, the next time you’re on the roads with your kids, and you ask them to walk on the pavements, they will happily agree!
4) Blind spots
“A blind spot in a vehicle is an area around the vehicle that cannot be directly observed by the driver while at the controls, under existing circumstances. Blind spots exist in a wide range of vehicles: cars, trucks, motorboats, sailboats, and aircraft,” says Padma, reading from the Wikipedia.
The rear corners of buses and large vehicles are blind spots. Children must be made aware of this fact for holistic knowledge about road safety.
“If they know that these are the spots in which I cannot be seen, they will steer clear of those spots na?” asks Padma.
I think she has a valid point here and we should talk to our children about the technical aspects of road travel too.
- A large toy truck or a piece of chart
- Miniature human figurine
What do you do?
- Use the large toy truck else or draw a truck on a large piece of chart.
- Mark the various corners of the truck-two front corners and two rear corners where the headlights and rear lights are positioned respectively. Placing the truck on the floor or table, mark the blind spots. To know the exact blind spots, refer to the internet.
- Take a miniature toy figurine or cut a piece of cardboard to denote you. Place the piece of cardboard or toy at the various blind spots that you have marked.
- Make your child repeat placing the toy or cardboard, taking turns as you play.
- A 3D idea of this rule will help your child remember blind spots for life.
Learn about the blind spots around your car as well. In fact, you can park the car in an open space and make the child stand in the blind spots of your car. That’ll add to the fun!
5) Lights ahoy!
“I think they know about red, green, and yellow. That gets boring for them.”
Padma says that while teaching children about rules of traffic, parents only talk about the traffic lights. Since they learn those rules in school from a very young age, repetition of those rules gets redundant. What we can actually do is use the understanding of those rules to teach related concepts of seat belts, use of fluorescent lights placed on roads, and most importantly, the signs to use a zebra crossing.
Turning lights game
Padma says that this game is always a hit at her NGO.
Materials that you’ll need
- A large chart
- Black pen or marker
- Red and green coloured chart
- A pair of scissors
- A piece of cardboard and glue to make the placard
What’s the game?
- According to Padma, she first makes black stripes on the large chart to denote the zebra crossing. This she sticks this make-believe crossing in the middle of the room they’re using to play.
- Then she cuts circular pieces of the coloured chart to make red and green circles. She sticks the red circle on the chest of a child and the green at his back.
- They also make a placard which shows the sign for walking (you can take a print from this link).
- After their signs are ready, Padma starts walking in the room, around the zebra crossing stuck to the floor, pretending it’s a street. The child has to show his chest side (that has the red circle stuck to it) when he wants Padma to stop and the back (with the green circle) when he wants her to continue. red says stop and green says go is the idea behind this.
- When he/she holds up the placard showing the walking sign, Padma has to come near the zebra crossing and walk only on it. If she walks anywhere else in the room, she is disqualified and the next child gets a turn to play.
“I play this with all the 15 kids in my class. It’s an hour of unadulterated learning and fun,” she concludes.
I like this kind of fun, don’t you?
6) Belt it up!
“We can never undermine the importance of seat belts.”
Padma believes that our country is still very lenient when it comes to safety within cars–especially about wearing seat belts. I agree with her. I am guilty of letting my son sit on the backseat without wearing his seatbelt. Are you too?
Seat belt drama
This one needs both parents.
- Place three chairs such that one is facing the other two. Two chairs are adjacent to each other and are for the actors. The chair facing then is for the child, the audience.
- Make your child sit comfortably on the audience chair and tell him/her that mamma and papa are acting like they are passengers in a car and are sitting at the back seat.
- Sit on the two adjacent chairs and act as if the car is moving smoothly.
- Then say that the moving car stops abruptly (make it as animated as your fancy allows). When the car stops abruptly, you fall off the chair because you are not wearing a seat belt.
The lesson? If you don’t wear a seatbelt in a moving car, you can slip off the seat and hurt yourself.
My son laughed so hard when I fell, I could not speak to him about the lesson for 15 minutes after the activity.
Let’s see how much fun your child gets out of this.
As tough as it looks
Recently, my son and I reached school 15 minutes earlier than usual and decided to kill time at the parking lot. As we walked around, my restless five-year-old got playful and started playing poke-me with the cars around. He did once or twice and said “ouch!”
“I’ll be careful around cars Mamma,” was the response I got when I mentioned the toughness of cars and their capacity to hurt anyone who comes in their way. It was a fun way to teach him.
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