Does your child know from where they could get help if an emergency arises?
Or, how to navigate to the nearest safe spot?
Are they aware of the places in your neighbourhood?
Research indicates that there are important places near home and in our neighbourhood that children must know about — places that we don’t always deem necessary for them to visit or know about.
Mental maps for kids
“Kids are quite smart about roads, locations, and places — smarter than we think,” explains Sheetal, a mother and the curriculum head at Mumbai-based playschool. Ra Butterflies.
“Ask him to draw his house and Neel will draw all the three buildings of our society.”
She tells me that children make mental maps. Her five-year-old thinks of the entire apartment building when he imagines his house.
“But, they see places from a different viewpoint than ours,” she adds. Talking to her makes me think about all the mental maps my kid must have made.
It’s important that we direct this intelligence constructively and actually make them aware of the places that they must know about.
5 places near your house that your child should know of
“She’s not going there alone ever, is she?”
I was bouncing off this idea of the hospital topping the list of places in our neightbourhood that her daughter must know about with a friend of mine and she gave this not-so-encouraging response (since children are never going to visit it all by themselves).
Do you feel the same?
A doctor speaks
“Ask him how he feels about a hospital,” says my son’s trusted paediatrician when I landed at his clinic for research.
He wants me to ask my son his feelings about a hospital.
Feeling rather dissuaded by his response in the middle of a Monday afternoon, when his waiting room is full of patients who I’m sure are not there to question him like me, I almost compel the doctor to explain.
He says, “For them, a hospital is a place (near home) where doctors treat patients. Unlike adults, children do not have negative experiences attached to a hospital. It’s a great idea if they know where they can get closest and fastest healthcare from.”
He concludes by saying that to know about healthcare facilities in their locality only makes children smarter and worldly-wise.
I see no harm in that. Do you?
2) Transport stop
The same concern that children never travel alone arises with these places as well. Then, why enlist them here?
When I asked Anjali T Kumar who has PhD in Biodiversity and Conservation this, she says that kids should be made aware of how things operate within our public system.
Just because they don’t have to use a bus, train, or airplane alone does not mean that they should not know how these systems work.
“Basic knowledge of important locations in and around your house makes kids less vulnerable. It also reduces ignorance,” she says.
Just an instance
Anjali recounts a time when she had organised a kid’s art camp.
Most kids were within the age bracket of four-to-seven years. They were asked to imagine travelling to their favourite destination and creating a piece of art based on that.
“The younger lot only drew their favourite destination, while the older lot discussed the mode of travel as well.”
She thinks it’s necessary for children to know their whereabouts with respect to the world they live in. That idea starts from knowing their locality and the important places near their home.
Isn’t that exactly what this piece is all about?
This is especially true of places near home and within our neighbourhood.
3) A known face
“Turn right and then the ice-cream parlour and then it’s her house!”
Shristi is just four. She knows how to get to her aunt’s house at least from the ice cream parlour near her place. Since she has a relative who lives quite close by, Shristi has been taught how to get to that place on her own.
I’m sure it must have been a task to teach a little one road maps, but I’m also sure that, if we try, even we can succeed.
But why do it?
“Children should know the safe places that they can go to or contact if they ever need to. Relatives, close friends, and locally situated grandparents are a few such places,” says Joanna, a children’s counsellor at a Mumbai-based school. She often conducts workshops to initiate discussions about health and safety with kids.
“You never know the situation your children might find themselves in. Isn’t it then better to teach them these details, instead of expecting strangers to help them?”
Joanna enlists a number of other safety options like making a family key word, writing down phone numbers in kid’s bag tags, teaching them how to dial those numbers, and so on. But that’s another matter for another day.
For now, let’s start by teaching them the route to the closest relative or friend’s place, near your home.
4) The Grocers’
Since we grew up during a time and age when the all-prevailing Internet did not exist, we had to run to the grocers’ at the beginning of every month.
This system has been replaced by the multi-speciality departmental stores and online grocery shops, but in India, the round-the-corner grocer still exists.
“Children should know the nearest grocery store as well as the route to reach it,” says Prabhat, a manager at a play joint for toddlers, Kidz Zone.
Prabhat is a father of two boys. So, it is easier to teach the five-year-old just by sending him along with the older, seven-year-old, to run basic errands.
“The idea behind making them do odd jobs is to teach them the place from where food can be bought. Independence comes with basic knowledge.”
Prabhat wants his sons to become independent and self-reliant. No harm in doing that? Don’t you think?
5) Police station
Even before I begin talking about this one I want to know: how many of you had a weird feeling associating children with police stations? Well, all of us have our answers.
“The police are for our safety. Creating a fear against them is like creating a future of mistrusting citizens. Don’t pass on your fears to them.”
Joanna has quite a lot to say about making kids aware of the nearest police station to your home.
She says that creating a list about the dos and don’ts of personal safety is an excellent way to teach children to know a right/good situation from a wrong/bad one.
Secondly, just like we have family rules about playtime, meals, bedtime, and school, we should have rules about the need for personal safety. However, this should be done without creating fear or dilemmas.
“Parents have to reinforce the importance of safety without making a lot of fuss around it. Knowledge about the nearest police station gives children the satisfaction that their family are protected by a government security system,” adds Joanna.
“Don’t let your negative views about the system curtail the fact that the police are, at the end of the day, a system for the protection of the community,” Joanna insists.
Just like we teach our children our full names, phone numbers, and addresses, they should be made aware of the address (read location) of different places near home that are essential.
This makes them be conscious of the world around them (for starters, places in the neighbourhood) and feel empowered.
It is one of the stepping stones for lifelong learning!
Does your child know all of the above? And are there any other important places in the neighbourhood that kids should be aware of? Do share them in the comments below.
Image Credits: taberandrew
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