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Advice to teach young children how to cross the street

Consejos para enseñar a los más pequeños a cruzar por la calle

05/05/2021

Teaching a child to cross the street correctly is one of the biggest concerns in terms of road safety education. This is a task that can be complicated, especially for them. Teaching them these values as of a very young age is important for the rest of their lives. 

We must keep in mind that children are not aware of the dangers. Parents, educators and caregivers play a fundamental role, on the one hand, by instilling and teaching them to cross the road correctly and, on the other hand, by setting an example with their behavior.  It is not advisable to trust that children already know how to cross.  It is estimated that children between the ages of 3 and 9 are still vulnerable, especially when on the roads. 

Why is crossing correctly a complicated task for children?

On the one hand, crossing requires a level of coordination between sight and brain. Likewise, crossing involves decision making, something that must be done quickly. Calculating distances and speeds, the child's visual field limitations, cognitive maturity... All these factors work against them. In addition we must consider that children are easily distracted are are often unpredictable. 

Everything will depend, of course, on the child's maturity in determining whether or not he or she is ready to cross alone or go to school alone, for example. It is estimated that from the age of twelve a child may be ready to do so but, as we have indicated, everything will depend on the child him/herself. 

Starting from an early age is key

From the moment we observe that there is a communicative level between the child and other people, we can start working on road safety education. Between 3 and 5 years of age, the child can begin to learn some basic road safety rules. Any opportunity is a good one to learn more about appropriate traffic behavior: tell them what a pedestrian crossing is, a traffic light, etc.

How? Let's start by explaining how to cross the street and each of the elements involved. With very young children it is best to this in situ, so that they can see for themselves how to correctly cross and when. 

It is especially important to always cross at the pedestrian crossing, always waiting on the roadway. Point out the importance of following the traffic light signs (if there are any). Take advantage of the traffic light to go over the colors and their meaning regarding traffic. Emphasize that the upper part of the traffic light is for drivers and the lower part is for pedestrians. The pedestrian part of the traffic light shows two figures of a person: one red standing and one green walking.It is also important to emphasize this at home and at school. If the green light starts flashing, it means that it is going to turn red and we should finish crossing if we are in the process or not do it if we have not started yet because it will change to red.

Then emphasizes that if the traffic light is green, you should look both ways: left, right and left again (remember that in the UK it is the other way around). Now you must make it clear to never, under any circumstance, cross if all vehicles on both sides have not completely stopped. A good option is to look at the drivers who have stopped and make eye contact with them. This is especially important when dealing with small children, who may not be seen because of their height. 

Now you can cross and do not stop in the middle of the road. Crossing must be done quickly and safely, without distractions. When crossing, it is important not to walk outside the lines marking the crossing. Once you get to the other side of the road, tell the child he/she has crossed correctly. The child must obviously always cross holding an adult's hand. 

It is important to reinforce all these ideas at home and at school. On the Internet we can find an array of materials to do so. In this link you will find different materials for children learning road safety, from games to educational guides, children's literature or videos. 

In this video we take a closer look at how to cross the street:

The situation must be repeated over and over again First you guild the child, and later when he/she is fully aware of the situation, you can follow his/her indications. This should obviously always be done under the supervision of an adult who will be the one to decide how and when to cross. 

The child should also be aware that pedestrian crossings may not have traffic lights. In this case, the child has more responsibility and a more important role. We must not leave them alone until they know how to cross perfectly. It should also be noted that pedestrian crossings may sometimes be regulated by traffic control agents and in these cases the agents will indicate when to cross and their indications prevail over a traffic light. 

It would be useless to explain how to cross if we do not do so correctly and, and when in a hurry, or faced with an inconvenience, the adult crosses incorrectly. Setting an example is the best way to teach

Finally, here we offer guidelines for children to safely move around a city.

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