As kids get older, they need a basic understanding of traffic rules to keep them safe. Even if he's just walking across the street to school, your little pedestrian will need to understand how traffic stops and goes. And once he's driving his first vehicle -- that is, a bicycle -- there will be more important rules to learn.
Basic Traffic Signs
Talk with your child about how drivers need to obey traffic signs and laws in order to operate their cars safely. If no traffic rules existed, drivers wouldn’t know how to take turns and move safely with other cars around them. Point out and discuss red stop signs, which tell drivers to stop their cars at an intersection to wait to cross; speed-limit signs, which tell drivers how fast they can drive their cars; and railroad signs, which tell drivers that trains cross the road ahead.
Describe the way traffic lights work to your child as you watch them change colors together. Explain that the red light on top means stop, the yellow light in the middle means caution, and the green light on the bottom means go. Show your child how the traffic lights point in each direction so that the drivers of the cars can see the lights no matter which way they're approaching the intersection. When drivers see a red light, they need to stop their cars to wait for other cars to move. When drivers see a yellow light, they know the light is just about to turn red, so they should be ready to slow down and stop. When drivers see a green light, they can drive safely through the intersection. Show your child that it's all about cars waiting their turn. When the cars moving north-south have a red light, for example, the cars moving east-west have a green light and can drive.
According to the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, kids between the ages of 4 and 6 are ready to begin learning how to cross the street safely. Stand on a corner with your child, holding hands and watching the traffic. Mention using both ears and eyes to figure out if it’s safe to cross. Ask your child if she sees and hears any cars coming from the left and then repeat the process with the right. If cars are coming, wait and then ask again. When it’s clear to cross, ask your child one more time if it’s safe. As long as it’s safe, hold hands and walk across the street together. After several years of practice, sometime between the ages of 6 and 8, your child will likely be ready to cross alone as long as she demonstrates responsible and safe crossing.
With a properly fitted helmet and a bicycle that's the right size and in safe condition, a child can begin to learn traffic rules for bicycling safety. Children younger than 10 years old should ride on the sidewalk, but kids over 10 can ride on the street with adequate training, advises the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Kids riding on the street must ride with traffic, obeying all traffic signs and laws just as vehicles do. Like cars, they must yield to pedestrians trying to cross the street. They must also check traffic very carefully before entering an intersection, turning, or maneuvering around parked cars.