Happy to be stuck in traffic

26th September 1997 at 01:00
Role-playing is one of the surest ways to drive home the message about road safety, says Carol Raby

ROADMASTER ROADWORKS AND TRAFFIC SYSTEM ROLE-PLAYING KITS. De Luxe Pounds 199. Standard Pounds 125. Basic Pounds 59. Lollipop Pounds 29. Age range: 3-7

Young children's memories are short. So repetition and reminders are vital if the road safety message is to change their behaviour. West Sussex, like other local authorities, is committed to the safety of its young pupils. Its guide First Steps in Road Safety emphasises the value of frequent and progressive guidance. And what better way to embed knowledge and reinforce guidance than through meaningful, enjoyable play?

At Wickbourne nursery, in Littlehampton, West Sussex, children are benefiting from positive experiences to raise awareness about road dangers. The school is using a Roadmaster roadworks and traffic system to enable children to develop their own road safety strategies.

Headteacher Irene Needham says most of her pupils have to cross major roads on their way to and from school. With building works going on next door and huge delivery lorries arriving daily, the children must be made aware of the important rules of road safety.

The Roadmaster range, developed with teachers, aims to promote safety awareness from an early age. The scaled-down equipment (including zebra crossing mats to lollipops) teaches the youngest of children to develop an awareness for coping with traffic.

Roadmaster equipment is flexibly modular. Pieces can be added to extend a real-life scenario as far as the imagination - or the budget - will allow. It is possible to start with a lollipop three-piece mini-set at the cheapest end of the range. This consists of a zebra crossing mat, a "stop children" sign and a hand pole. Or a basic starter kit which includes barriers, poles, a "stop children" sign, mini cones, a roadworks sign and a safety hat.

To prepare for all traffic conditions, though, and for setting up realistic everyday road situations, comes the de-luxe kit, which is what Wickbourne opted for. This comes with barriers, poles, large and small cones, triangular and round signs, a flashing light, one safety hat, one pack of white road lines to control traffic direction, one tabard and one zebra crossing. More equipment, such as cones and tabards, can be added as required.

This realistic equipment can be used indoors and out. It is easy to assemble, and stows away in a brightly-coloured and heavy-duty holdall.

Roadmaster prides itself on providing a top-quality product that meets European safety standards and can cope with the demands of active group use. All the signs are brightly coloured to teach early recognition, and the cones are made from durable soft plastic. The lightweight reinforced barriers can be handled by even the youngest children and the zebra crossing is made from washable PVC.

The battery-operated flashing light can add real atmosphere, although it has an unwieldy metal handle that could (and did) trap a small child's fingers. The workmen's hats are sturdy and adjustable to fit various sizes of heads and the tabards easy to put on or take off for instant transformation.

Apart from developing awareness of the need for care on the roads, the Roadmaster equipment offers endless learning opportunities. Language and social skills are developed, and awareness of the importance of looking after ourselves and others encouraged. Children can be taught to use their ears and eyes and to learn consideration for others, not acting hastily or without due care.

The equipment can ably support a topic on transport, familiarising children with the meaning of traffic and the characteristics of vehicles, learning that roads are for cars and not safe places to play.

Individual items are available from leading educational suppliers or direct from Roadmaster (South West), 1 Raleigh Walk, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff CF1 5LN. Tel: 01222 485656; (Midlands the North) Colman House, Station Road, Knowle, Solihull B93 0HL.

Tel: 01564 771999

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