Did you know that today is National Walking Day? It’s a day to encourage us all to ditch the car and walk instead, the simplest and cheapest way to stay active and fit.
Learning to walk is such a milestone for babies. For convenience, you will still use a buggy – otherwise a trip to the supermarket could take several hours! – but it’s good to encourage your little one to walk as much as possible.
There will come a time when the buggy is tantrum-triggering in toddlers and they just want to walk everywhere but how do you manage that? And more importantly, how do you teach them the essential life skill of crossing the road and being road safe? The key is being a good role model to them and following the rules yourself. Here are a few pointers if you’re one of those people who dashes across the road just as the traffic light turns green!
How to cross a road safely with or without children!
Holding hands and where to position the child
Whether you’re a nanny or a parent, you must hold your child’s hand when walking near traffic (I know this is sometimes tricky, so I’ll come back to it). If there’s a pavement, use it; if you’re walking along a road without a pavement, walk on the side of the road that’s facing the traffic and put your child on the inside, not roadside. Putting your child on the inside when walking is a good habit regardless of where you are.
If you’re in a town with zebra or pelican crossings, make it a habit to use them when you’re with small children. (You might be tempted to cross when the road is clear anywhere along the road but remember that you’re being a road safety role model to your children!) Talk them through the crossing and the meaning of the red man and the green man, pressing the button and waiting. The more you talk them through this process, the more it will sink in and become a habit for them when they come to cross the road, either with you or when they’re older and independent.
When crossing a street, perhaps one where you live, remember to cross where you can see clearly, up and down the road. This means, not crossing the road behind a vehicle or in front of a large vehicle – do you remember the rules we were taught at school about not crossing in front of a bus? It still applies. If you have to poke your head around a vehicle to see what’s coming, it’s not safe.
Look and listen
Importantly, encourage your child to look around them and listen for oncoming traffic. If they hear a siren, that vehicle is likely to be going fast so ask them to step back a little from the pavement. As you all cross the road, ask them to continue looking left and right and listening for traffic.
Holdings hands vs reins vs buggy
It goes without saying that your child is safest strapped into a buggy, being pushed by you. When your child starts seeking greater independence, if you can manage, push the buggy with one hand whilst holding their hand with the other. If your child becomes tired, you can then strap them back into the buggy without having to endure a whingy toddler to your destination. This juggle of toddler and buggy isn’t necessarily easy, but it gives you options. (Don’t put any valuables into your empty buggy as this makes them easier to snatch, especially as you have your hands full with toddler and buggy.)
The other option is to use child reins or a harness. Depending on the brand you buy, these can be fun products for your child whilst also allowing you control over where they’re going. They might not feel as restrained as when they’re holding your hand.
But then again, they might! If you have a real free spirit then it’s essential that you try to hold their hand – I hate to say it but bribery often works!
Teaching road safety to visually impaired and deaf children
Children with sight and hearing disabilities should be taught to cross the road too so that they can be as independent as possible.
The key things for visually impaired children to consider is finding a crossing if possible. We have all felt the bumpy paving slabs (known as tactile paving) near crossings and these are for blind people. There are different types of tactile paving depending on the imminent danger but the one near crossings is called blister paving. This is telling the visually impaired person to stop.
You might think that the beeping which occurs when the green man appears is for blind people and to a certain degree it is. But imagine being stood at a busy crossing intersection – that beeping could relate to any of the crossings, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
But there is something to get around this: did you know that underneath the crossing box (the box with the button that you press to show that you want to cross the road) there is a little cone-shaped knob that rotates when the green man is showing? This is great for visually impaired children and adults as it tells them when the red light is showing the cars to stop. (A car may still go through the red light, of course, so they should continue to listen for oncoming traffic).
For children with hearing impediments, they can use all the visual cues for crossing the road but as they may not be able to hear oncoming traffic or emergency vehicle sirens, they must be taught to use their sight a lot more.
Lastly, in my research for this blog, I learnt that there are puffin crossings, toucan crossings (pedestrians and cyclists can cross) and Pegasus crossings (for horses)! The puffin crossing is the updated clever relation to the pelican crossing. It can tell if the road is clear of pedestrians before changing the lights from red to green which is great for all of us.
Your nanny should know all of this but during interview, make sure you reinforce the message that you want your children to get into the habit of walking outside as much as possible and to learn road safety. If you have any concerns about how to raise that with your nanny, give me a call – 01732 838417
Walking is so good for our physical and mental health that I hope you’ve managed to go for a walk today. But if not, there’s always tomorrow.