When Lily was about four we started practicing crossing streets. There were two small streets on the way to the farther park, and Lily was very excited about the idea of crossing them by herself. After talking through the process (look both ways, then if you don't see any cars coming across slowly and steadily while continuing to look both ways) I would stand with her at the corner and say "cross when you think it safe", watching for cars myself so I could stop her if she stepped out when she shouldn't.

Unfortunately, she took looking both ways to be about pointing her head, not about actually looking. She would wiggle her head as fast as possible, trying to maximize how many times she could look left and right, much faster than she could actually tell what she was seeing. (Lily: "when I first started learning how to cross streets I would turn my head like a maniac.") This was not useful practice, and after trying and failing to show her how to look I decided to wait until she was older. After a while I stopped bringing up the idea, she stopped bringing it up, and this was on hold for a couple years.

This summer, when Lily was seven and Anna was five, we tried again. This time it went much better: they would both actually look for cars, and would see them when they were coming. Pretty quickly we got to where we would do this with most streets: I would ask whether they wanted to practice, and they would cross on their own with me checking that they were doing it right. On streets with parked cars, I taught them to slow down and look again after they got to the "car line". This is the point about 6 feet from the curb where sightlines are no longer blocked by parked cars.

Over the next few weeks with lots of walks together they were both, but especially Lily, reliably doing it right. I started giving them permission when they had gone ahead of me, to where I could see them and tell whether they were looking properly, but couldn't see everything they could see. By September (7y5m) Lily was almost ready to do it on her own, and in October she was ready for a set of small streets near our house. We used walkie-talkies, and she would check in with us over the radio before crossing and after to let me know it went ok. Lily could walk places herself, and could bring Anna if they both wanted that.

The biggest street they wanted to cross but couldn't was a busy one between our house and the closest playground. I was expecting it was going to be a year or two yet, but then in November the city put in several serious "speed humps". Traffic slowed down dramatically, enough that I thought Lily could do it. I did the same thing as before, watching her many times to check her work, but by the end of the month she had demonstrated she could do it safely.

(Anna overheard me dictating this post, and asked whether we could do more practice so that she could get to crossing streets on her own. Looking forward to running through this a second time!)

I asked Lily what she saw as the main benefit of being able to cross streets, and she said "I'm able to go to friends houses without having a grown-up available." I asked if she had anything she wanted to tell parents or other kids, and she said "it's tricky at first but over time you get better at it and you get more responsibility."

In many ways, this was the same process we used in teaching them to stop at the curb: slowly increase responsibility while continuing to verify they're doing it safely. It does require concentrated parental time and attention, and slows down walks, but now they can go and visit friends entirely on their own which frees up parental time later. I think the payback period is under a year if you think of it that way, but that's not counting the benefit of them having more freedom in how and where they spend their time.

Comment via: facebook

New Comment
10 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

This sounds well thought out, useful teaching for your children. Most importantly, through observing your daughter's behaviour and attention, you could gauge how able Lily was to attend to/focus on traffic from both directions. The learner teaches you what's going on; teaching is mutual learning. This post also brings the retrospective horror of walking to school (as a primary aged child 6/7yrs) when the walk, three miles each way, involved crossing a main road. I did not know, (up until I reached twenty years old) that most people saw differently to me. Buses, cars, blackboards, TVs all were very blurry, I figured it was 'normal.' Turns out I was always extremely myopic (-10 currently) So, hopefully all children have great eye testing and great eyesight once they're able to understand the elements of street crossing!

At age 4, we started with the first tries for street crossing too. I remember the turning-the-head-left-and-right phase, and it required some practice to figure out when they detected moving cars reliably. One advantage that we had was that there is no pass-thru traffic on our local road and it is used by local residents only. Also, my sister, with her daughters, lives across the street so the benefit was higher. Overall, the steps described by Jeff are close to what we did. And as Jeff explains, if things don't work yet, you have to wait. All children are different, and as Jane writes, e.g., shortsightedness can make things difficult.

I completed the translation of the steps for roaming in the Google Sheet of our child development plan (see tab "Roaming."   

The Google sheet CDP is really interesting: particularly keen to see the development of the sleep tab - sleep records/routines for the whole family could be fascinating over time.

Get in touch with me via direct message. The data is scanned but in German and not exactly easy to analyze, but I might be able to answer some questions, or we figure something out. 

Have you considered making a LW sequence out of all your parenting posts? I think that'd cool and useful.

Would this have advantages over https://www.jefftk.com/news/kids ?

oh, I didn't know of that page, thanks. A LW sequence won't have much extra benefit, then, except visibility through LW, and also an option to sort them in some specific order rather then just chronological.

Makes me think that it could be nice if LW had the option to automatically add a crossposted post to a sequence based on tags.

Is it possible to search by a tag and filter by author? (This doesn't have the double check aspect of an author creating a sequence, but there is a tag in use on this post that's rather specific.)

Not yet, but I know the admins are planing on revamping the search engine to make it possible.

Hm. Are there any good export options at the moment? (Like, things you use to download stuff from websites to read (or sort) later? Like, say, all the posts by jefftk*?)

*Companion Cubes is not a tag on LW. It will probably never be a tag on LW. But, even if it's only one post, I can make it a sequence on my computer.