5 tips for a safe journey to school
Before children even get to the classroom there are already new discoveries to make and new things to learn on the way the school. All the rules of crossing the road, which is now second nature to parents, need to be taught and practiced before their protégés can be really safe and sure.
Safety before speed
The shortest way to school (or to the bus stop) is not necessarily the most direct. If you walk various different ways to school together, before the first school day and then decide which route is best, it will make it easier for your first-grader. Accompany your child all the way to the classroom for the first few weeks of school to build confidence and to allow time for the chosen route to be memorized. Some local authorities or schools in Germany offer a "Stadtplan für Schulstarter" which is a street map for children starting school, clearly listing handy hints, indicating the most dangerous accident black spots, and containing many other tips for a safe journey to school. Perhaps such town plans are available in your country too? Just ask for a copy!
Practice makes perfect
It is worth walking to school with your child several times before school starts and talking out loud when negotiating any traffic situations which arise. Set a good example and exercise the necessary caution in respect to road traffic. This is the only way that children will sense that this is serious and will learn how to cope with tricky situations on the way to school when they are alone. ergobag tip: swap roles! When you have covered all the rules and rehearsed the route, let your child lead you to school and explain the drills. This will help to reinforce what has just been learned, and soon you will have a little expert on your hands, on the route to school.
Practicing the route from home to school
Think of some questions about the route to school and run through various situations in theory with your child before school starts. What is the correct way to behave? What rules do I need to follow? What should I do if I suddenly see my friends on the other side of the road? Judging distance and speed is another skill which needs to be practiced – and in the process you can have bags of fun doing sports or playing ball games outside.
Setting clear rules
Decide together on some hard and fast rules which are important to you, such as stopping four inches from the edge of the curb. As you practice the walk to school together, you can draw a line on the sidewalk with colored chalk to indicate "this far and then stop!" The "look left, look right, look left again" drill (or vice versa) before crossing the road also needs to be practiced until it is fixed in their brain and becomes a routine sequence in your child's mind when thinking about situations involving road traffic. Agree on some signs together which can be used to communicate with other road users. Looking in the direction of the oncoming traffic at the crosswalk and stretching your arm out might, for example, indicate that you want to cross the road and signal a request to drivers to stop. Wait until there are no more vehicles in sight, or until they all have come to a standstill, then walk calmly across.
Easy rules for the school journey
Short and simple catchphrases like "Red - Stop!" and "Crosswalk - Wait!" can be called to mind more quickly than long explanations. And positive directions for the way to school like "always stay on the walkway" are more effective than negative phrases like "don't walk on the road". Bags at the ready... steady... go!
Thanks to Daniela Gaigg for the image!