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Street Smarts for Kids

As soon as your kids walk, they can walk into trouble. Even if your home and backyard are virtually childproof, the outside world has unpredictable dangers: being hit by a car, falling off a bicycle, getting lost at the mall, being touched inappropriately by a stranger  -- or a trusted adult.

So teach your child not only colors and sizes but also the ABC's of street smarts  -- how to stay safe while remaining confident, not fearful. "There's a fine line between teaching kids to be cautious and making them afraid," says Peggy Shecket, a private consultant and parenting educator in Columbus, OH.

Tailor the information to your child's age and personality, keep it light, and repeat it often  -- giving increasingly sophisticated answers as he gets older. There's no need to warn about every danger. What's more important is to instill core concepts and behaviors for each age. Since kids learn best by doing, the suggested games can be fun, effective ways to get your message across.

Katy Koontz lives in Tennessee and writes regularly about parenting topics. She is the mother of a 7-year-old girl.