I grew up in a city where public transportation is a second thought. Buildings, homes, and businesses are spread far apart there, and it takes a car to reliably travel from place to place. Since I packed up and moved to Iceland, however, I’ve had to learn the ways of public transport—and I’m not the only one.
Teens and kids alike also use mass transit pretty regularly here in Reykjavik. Even during winter, public buses are the easiest and safest way for kids to get to school and activities. It also takes a lot of scheduling stress off parents and reduces environmentally harmful emissions. If you live in a larger city, teaching kids how to use public transportation is a valuable life skill that they’ll continue to use throughout the course of their life.
Why Should I Teach My Child About Public Transport?
Knowing how to navigate public transport is a pretty valuable skill if you live in a large city. Here are a few reasons you should teach your child about public transportation:
- Riding public transportation boosts a child’s independence. When kids know how to maneuver through public transportation safely, it opens up a whole new world of independence that aids in developing maturity and a higher sense of self-worth. Parents also benefit from their child’s newfound independence! Just think about it, once your teen knows how to take the bus, they won’t be calling you for a ride home from after-school sports and extracurriculars.
- Public spaces help kids develop social awareness. Trains and buses are public spaces, just like parks and town squares. Taking a ride on public transport exposes kids to people and situations that require social skills and societal awareness. Whether they’re purchasing a ticket or talking with an employee, public transport helps kids and teens get some much-needed social practice.
- Public transportation protects the environment. If you watch the news or scroll through social media, the ongoing climate crisis is nothing new. Our natural home is in danger, primarily due to pollution from man-made machines like cars and factories that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses.
Three Ways To Teach Kids About Public Transportation
Public transportation can be intimidating for anyone, especially kids. If you trust them enough to let them navigate their hometown on their own, follow these three steps to effectively prepare your kids to make the most of their bus or train journeys.
- Show your child how public transportation works. Many kids learn best by example. When introducing children to the world of mass transit, make sure to model the steps you’re taking so they know what they’ll eventually have to do themselves. Show them how to buy a ticket, check a bus schedule, and scan into an underground metro station.
- Let your kiddo take the lead. Once you’ve modeled how to use public transportation, encourage your kids to take the lead on your next trip and follow the steps themselves. Remind them that you’re there to help if they make any mistakes. Some people learn best by teaching (I can attest) as teaching requires you to fully understand the concept before explaining it to someone else, so encourage your child to explain what they’re doing as they’re doing it.
- Send them on a short journey with a friend or sibling. Once your child feels confident in their abilities, they may want to try traveling without a parent. If you think they’re ready to be independent, don’t stop them! There’s safety in numbers, so send them out with a friend or sibling. If this first trip goes well, you may not have to drive them anywhere again! Just remind them to bring their cell phone along in case of an emergency.
If your kids don’t have a phone quite yet, smartphones from Troomi Wireless are a great, kid-friendly option. These awesome phones empower your kiddo to develop a healthy relationship with technology, and even feature a GPS that can help you keep track of your child on their first solo trip. Click here to learn more about Troomi!
Ten Tips For Teens Taking Public Transportation Alone
Once your child reaches a certain age and maturity level, they may feel confident enough to travel on public transportation alone. Before anything else, celebrate their independence! It’s a big deal to navigate a city independently, and one of the first steps towards adulthood. How exciting is that!
Before they go, share with them these ten tips for teens taking public transportation alone:
- Start with a trial run. Even though they’re ready for independence, teens may get nervous traveling alone. Take the trip with your teen the first few times before sending them out on their own.
- Make a plan. As with all travel, it’s important to have a plan and be prepared when taking public transport. Make sure your teen checks the timetable so they can plan their schedule.
- Then make a backup plan. If the situation turns sour, a backup plan is essential for safety and peace of mind. After all, nobody complains about being too prepared!
- Travel with a friend or in a group. There’s safety in numbers. If your teen is nervous about traveling solo, encourage them to find a friend or group of peers to journey with.
- Use a prepaid ticket. Buying a ticket on the bus or at the station can be a stressful experience. Avoid any potential problems by using prepaid tickets. Your local transportation company’s website should have instructions on how to purchase tickets.
- Stay aware. Don’t zone out, and make sure you are aware of your surroundings and anyone around you. This means turning headphones down, keeping your eyes open, and keeping hold of your possessions at all times.
- Remember stranger danger. Most people taking public transportation are just trying to get from place to place. This isn’t always the case, though, so make sure to remind your child about stranger danger before their journey.
- Carry your phone with you. Phones are an amazing tool. If a bus route suddenly changes or you sleep through your stop, a phone is the best way to get in contact with parents and figure out a new plan.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged. It’s no use having your phone with you if it’s out of battery, so charge it up before you travel. If you’re nervous about losing battery on the go, bring a portable charger along with you!
Have fun exploring the city! It’s exciting to explore your hometown on your own. Enjoy the experience and make some memories along the way! Take pictures with your phone’s camera so you remember where you’ve been and what you’ve seen, and enjoy your newfound freedom.