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Encouraging Independence, Age by Age

Cross the street alone

When kids are ready: Around 7 or 8, depending on your child's maturity and how busy the street is

Look for these signs: Your child generally has good impulse control and is patient enough to thoroughly scan the road.

How to start: Begin teaching the basics of traffic safety when your little one is about 3 years old. "Whenever my children and I crossed a street or walked in a parking lot, I would tell them, 'Look both ways and make sure no cars are coming,'" Isett says. "Now they're eight, and when we cross the street, they make sure I look both ways!" Explain that it's safe to cross only at a corner or stop sign, and never to dart out from between parked cars.

No matter how well drilled your child is, though, he'll still need plenty of practice. Start him off on a quiet road, and follow a few feet behind him to see how he does. After a couple of weeks, stand on the other side of the street, and let him come to you. There's no rush. If you live in an area with fast-moving cars and few stop signs or traffic lights, or your child is easily distracted, wait until he's 10, or even older.

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