Sometimes, being safe is obvious to adults. But kids are not always aware of the ‘what if’ scenarios that we’ve become accustomed to. We may take for granted that there are street signs, crosswalks and sidewalks. And we know how to be alert to oncoming traffic. But kids need to be taught these skills. They also need to be taught how to use the tools available to them to prevent injuries on the street.
In this article, we’ll explain some tips to teach street and road safety at preschool.
Use educational resources provided by your insurance provider or government road safety department:
Since we are in B.C., our car insurance provider, ICBC, is one of the resources we can use for traffic safety teaching resources. In fact, they have free materials specifically made for educators here:
Teachers can also use the following poster for older kids (who can read), or send them home to parents of a preschool classroom, as constant reminders:
The tips given by ICBC are fairly generic, and ‘common sense’ road rules for any jurisdiction, however. So even if you’re not in B.C., they can apply to you, too. They include tips like planning out routes with kids, so they know when they’ll need to stop at crosswalks, for instance. Or, wearing reflective clothing at night. And so on.
On that note, for daycare, preschool or kindergarten classrooms, remember that it’s mostly the parents who will need to be reinforcing these lessons when kids are spending time outside the classroom. They’ll also need to help kids prepare things like reflective clothing, flash lights, rules when walking through parking lots, or map routes to school. So, it’s good to have resources ready for school newsletters that keep parents informed, too.
Watch educational videos on road safety at preschool or daycare
Here are just a few we quickly dug up, for reference:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXLQE86JPdA (this is a song on traffic lights)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkoVxBnnGko (this one is on bike safety)
Use classroom circle time to teach traffic safety games and lessons
Keeping attention during circle time can mean introducing new games and concepts to kids. You can make one of those lessons about road safety.
One easy thing to start with are road signs. You can use paper cut outs to show kids what a stop sign look like, and what it means. You can do the same with the crosswalk sign, the traffic lights, train crossing, and so on. You can even use a photo of the crosswalk traffic controller button, to show kids they can press it, and only ‘go’ when they get the signal to do so.
Here is a free printable we found on Pinterest (though these may not come out very large):
And this article that goes with it, explaining how to create mini roadways with these signs, to teach a lesson about road signs:
Here is another article with a matching game (memory game) of traffic sign cards you can play with the preschool class:
And here is a neat game with free printables using the “I spy” idea to teach road signs to kids (better to go on a walk for this one):
There are plenty more on Pinterest, should you wish to do a search for these there (especially one containing signs that are used in your neighbourhood).
During circle time, you can also play traffic safety games with kids. For example, one kid can pretend to be the ‘traffic light,’ and hold up a green, yellow or red circle. Two other kids can hold hands (one can be the ‘adult), and cross only when the ‘traffic light kid’ gives them the green light. During an outside activity, or for physical exercise games, you can even set up an obstacle course doing this, with cones, crosswalk signs, sidewalks and more.
Here is an example of a traffic game set up in a classroom, found on Instagram:
Or, check out this version, on a Pinterest pin:
You can also read books about road safety, that are preschool-age minded.
And, just by talking and explaining, teach kids the basics of:
- Holding a parent’s hand when crossing the street or walking through parking lots.
- Not running into traffic for any reason (even if they want to catch a ball or a bubble).
- Looking both ways before crossing the street, to ensure there is no oncoming traffic.
- Listening for traffic or trains before crossing the street, and paying attention.
- Not standing behind cars that may be turned on, or just not standing behind parked cars in driveways in general (they may back up and not see the child).
- Not going outside without a parent or adult supervision.
- Staying within fenced areas, or designated play areas at home and school.
- Obeying all traffic signs.
- Walking on the sidewalk that is in the opposite direction of traffic.
- Walking on the ‘inside’ of the sidewalk, away from the street, especially if walking with a parent.
- Not trying to speed down hills on a bike or skateboard, especially if it is a road for cars.
- Wearing a helmet while biking.
- Wearing reflective clothing or bright colours when walking outside, if possible (our daycare kids wear reflective vests when we on field trips or play outdoors in public spaces).
- Wearing a seatbelt at all times in the car.
- Waiting for the bus to stop before getting off, and not walking on a moving bus.
And so on.
Make street signs and road safety crafts as an art unit
Finally, you can teach street and road safety at preschool with an all-time favourite: crafts! These can also incorporate a lesson on geometry and shapes, since many street signs are based on these mathematical dimensions. Of course, that also brings up colours and word recognition, too.
These can be made of paper with typical cut outs and paint colours.
You can also make felt shapes, and the kids can ‘stick’ their cars, people, bikes and road signs along a pretend road mat (like those rugs with road scenes on them, meant for playing with toy cars).
Here is an idea we found on Pinterest, where you can make ‘people’ on popsicle sticks, and have them practice crossing a paper drawing of a cross walk:
You can use these popsicle sticks (or gingerbread men, or lego figurines, or Barbies, or dolls, or G.I. Joes), to play crossing the street on road rugs, cartoon maps, or your own crafted roads! For example, something like this paper road craft:
(This would also be a good time to play, “why did the chicken cross the road?” Ha!)\
To conclude: pedestrian child safety is everyone’s responsibility
On the one hand, we can say that pedestrian safety is the responsibility of drivers, who should follow all the road rules, especially in school zones. But even when the pedestrian is in the ‘right,’ the damage caused by accidents can’t always be fixed. Or if it can, it take a long time (especially with cases like trauma).
So, whether or not a child is following the rules, they still need to be street smart, by learning how to keep themselves safe and aware of traffic.
See related on our blog:
- Teaching young kids about stranger safety
- How to teach playground safety at daycare
- Tips to prepare a daycare or preschool for earthquakes