Teaching Children to Walk Safely as They Grow and Develop

Walking, first as a child holding the hand of a caring adult, is a form of transportation used throughout life. Being able to walk safely is an important skill that needs to be developed over time, starting with those first hand-held walks. The process is similar to that of how teenagers learn to drive. Just as teenagers must first practice judgment and skills with an adult present and in simple traffic conditions, children need help learning and practicing where and how to walk safely. To help children become safe walkers, adults must look at the world of traffic from a child's point of view and have an understanding of how children's abilities to learn and reason develop over time.

This guide is intended to help parents and caregivers match their guidance and expectations with their children's abilities.

Each child grows and develops differently so it is impractical to expect all children to demonstrate a specific ability at a specific age(Schieber, 1996; Vinje, 1981; Whitebread & Neilson, 2000; Thomson, 2006; Dunbar, Hill, & Lewis, 2001;Tolmie et al., 2002; Michon, 1981). This impracticality makes time spent walking together when an adult can assess and guide their child's learning all the more important. Although parents and caregivers are usually the most familiar with their children's abilities, it is common for them to overestimate their children's walking skills(Rivara et al., 1991; Dunne, Asher, & Rivara, 1992). This can lead to children walking in situations that they are not ready to handle.

This guide leads parents and caregivers through stages of child development and identifies which walking safety skills to teach along the way. The guide is divided into two parts:

For more information read the sections below.