As parents we all want our children to be safe near traffic and to also lead healthy, active lives.
Laura Zitver is a mother of two young children, former road safety officer and former teacher who recognised there was a lack of road safety education for toddlers.
So she started RAFT – Road Awareness For Toddlers – to address this issue with fun, engaging activity sessions in Hertfordshire where she lives.
Here’s Laura to tell us more…
What is RAFT?
My name is Laura Zitver and I am the Founder of Road Awareness For Toddlers – courses and sessions currently aimed at 2-5 year olds teaching road awareness and safety to local communities and schools through music and sound, craft, creative play and experimentation.
Sessions for younger children are child-led and for pre-school upwards there are structured sessions. Each age group has the opportunity to create their own RAFT craft booklet to review and re-visit safety messages learnt with their parent or carer. As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn’.
Why is it Important?
In 2013 I became a parent to a wonderful little boy and safety, in particular road safety, started to play an important part in our daily family life. I wanted my son to have the freedom to run in the park but the understanding to hold my hand when we were at the shops or near roads.
My newfound experience of being a parent, coupled with my time as a Primary Teacher and Senior Road Safety officer, led me to instinctively create Road Awareness For Toddlers. The only sensory course of it’s kind devised for 2- 5 year olds delivering interactive and engaging road awareness sessions to parents, toddlers, per-schoolers and 4 & 5 year olds. The primary aim of RAFT is to keep little ones safe, whilst building on their environmental awareness.
Currently there are no road awareness or environment safety classes for this age group of children delivered in this unique and fun way. RAFT ensures that parents no longer have to wait until their children are school age (and often not until Year 2 or above – with increasingly limited resource spent on this area) to be taught the importance of road awareness and safety and how best to prevent accidents, when ‘bad habits’ may have already been formed.
We take our children everywhere with us so it makes sense to teach them early on these vital life skills. They learn their phonics in nursery so why should they not be taught about their environment and how to be safe in it? In 2014, 2,412 children were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads. Most of these casualties occurred whilst the child was out walking or cycling (source: RoSPA, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).
So far RAFT has been delivered to local nurseries, Children’s Centres, schools, childminders and parent & toddler groups. The courses and sessions have been gratefully received and the most rewarding part has been getting feedback from the parents and carers telling me that their child has become more ‘road aware’ and conscious of their environment whilst out and about, from shouting ‘look mummy, it’s a red light – STOOOOOPPPP!’ and ‘I saw a nee-naw car!’ to older siblings bossing their sister/brother about telling them to ’STOP/LOOK/LISTEN/CROSS HOLDING HANDS’!
During and after our sessions, it’s common for parents to make comments such as ‘my son is so much more aware of his surroundings now when crossing the road, he will hold my hand and wait at the kerb until he hears the beep’, (Helen from Hertfordshire and mummy to Ronnie aged 2 years).
‘Road Awareness For Toddlers’ is also about educating parents/careers and other child professionals. From teaching positive language, to creative thinking about relating to our environment, it has also made adults think about and evaluate their own road safety behavior.
Practical Tips – Download the RAFT Guide
Why Road Safety is Important to Me
In 2008 I took up a temporary post, as Senior Road Safety Officer, at a London Council after being made redundant. Before this moment, I knew little about Road Safety and had not really experienced being taught it aside from being shown a video of Hedgehog learning to cross the road! And knowing the Green Cross Code of course. What I learnt and was exposed to over the coming two years in post was a life changing experience . . .
As a Senior Road Safety Officer involved in community project work and schools programmes, I met young people affected and disabled by road collisions and bereaved parents and siblings. It had a profound affect on me as an individual. Meeting those people who were living with life changing injuries and worst of all parents without their children, brothers and sisters growing up without their siblings. I also worked closely with the emergency services to build awareness of road safety and I can hand on heart say that they do a lot more than just a ‘job’, they save lives and try to re-build theirs after seeing such harrowing incidents.
I feel privileged to have worked in Road Safety and been given the opportunity to do some amazing work with some truly inspirational people. If RAFT can build on everyone’s awareness of Road Safety, that can only be a positive outcome.
Laura Zitver – Background
Laura has a BA (Hons) from the University of Hertfordshire and is a qualified Primary Teacher and former Senior Road Safety Officer. Laura has previously written training presentations for PCSOs teaching Road Safety in London as well as working closely with schools on individual road safety operations and projects. She is also trained in Prince 2 Project Management and has also worked in Marketing and Research roles.
Laura lives with her husband and two children, Owen and Amelia in Hertfordshire and enjoys living life to the full saying ‘yes’ to most things!
Thank you Laura.
For writing this article, allowing use of your photos and sharing your ideas. For more information about RAFT visit www.raftuk.com.