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Pitter patter of first kindy caterpillar

19 April 2006

Pitter patter of first kindy caterpillar boosts road safety

Parent co-ordinator Lisa Barker, with daughter Amy, 4, of Mt Albert Kindergarten, leads New Zealand's first official walk-to-pre-school group.

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Soon after taking their first steps, Mt Albert tots are striding onto New Zealand's first walking kindy bus, thanks to Auckland City and community support.

Mt Albert Kindergarten is trialling the council's new Kindy Caterpillar, which aims to get children learning road safety rules from an early age by registering them on the walk-to-pre-school scheme.

When they turn five, it is hoped the youngsters will make an easy transition to the walking school bus programme.

Auckland City senior road safety co-ordinator, Claire Dixon, says it is all about creating healthy and safe patterns from a young age.

"It is important that children become familiar with walking to kindergarten or school when they are as young as possible, to create a norm that walking is safe, good for your health and environmentally friendly," she says.

"They also become practiced in fundamental road safety procedures, like using zebra crossings or pedestrian refuge islands."

Claire Dixon says the Mt Albert Kindy Caterpillar is proving a huge hit for both walkers and their parents.

"The kids love it because they get to talk to their friends on the way, and it's more interesting than a car trip. And without the hassle of parking, it's easier and quicker for us," says parent volunteer Rachel Hall.

Children registered on the kindy caterpillar get their own bus tickets, which are clipped by a volunteer parent bus driver each time they walk the route. They also receive a free drink bottle, an umbrella in winter, and a sunhat in summer.

As part of setting up a new kindy caterpillar, Auckland City offers safety support including a trial walk of a proposed route identifying hazards such as over-hanging vegetation or potholes that need repairing. Only when road safety officers are happy with safety standards, does a route become approved for use.

"It is important that we are involved in setting up walking routes - safety is paramount and our expertise is valuable at the outset," says Ms Dixon.

Auckland Kindergarten Association has shown its full support for the initiative and is encouraging kindergarten members to register their interest with Auckland City.

Kindergartens that would like to establish a kindy caterpillar, should contact Claire Dixon, senior road safety co-ordinator, by phoning Auckland City on (09) 379 2020.

ENDS

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