About Ziggy

About Ziggy

Road Safety Learning

Did you know, before a child is around 8 years of age they are simply not able to be completely safe independent road users? Research demonstrates that, even though many young children know and can say that they should STOP, LOOK and LISTEN when crossing a road, what they know and what they do can be two entirely different things.

Instead of focusing solely on gaining knowledge and understanding, road safety education for young children must aim to develop positive attitudes and behaviours. If the adults around small children set a good example, the children will have been given the best possible start in their lifelong learning about road safety.

The early years of a child’s life are not just the most important in terms of physical and mental development; they also present the best opportunity to shape a child’s life chances. If we strive to give our children the best possible start in their early years road safety education we are helping them become safe and responsible road users for life.

Road safety learning at Early Level should be a partnership between child and adult. Adults can give children the best possible start for life by setting good examples every time they cross a road, walk near a road or travel in a vehicle with a young child.

The Approach

Following research and multi-agency collaboration Go Safe! Ziggy’s Road Safety Mission launched in Scotland in October 2010. An innovative new approach for early years road safety in Scotland, the approach targets three key age groups: 0-3; pre-school and the transition into primary 1, in line with the Scottish Government’s policy on early intervention and Curriculum for Excellence.

Themed around the seasons, the approach has been developed to be used throughout the year both at home and as part of the Early Level curriculum through early years settings and primary 1 classes.

The main aim is to engage and inspire young children and the adults around them to go on their own road safety learning journey, through real experiences, alongside playing, talking and reading.

For 0-3s, a bright and noisy rhyming story in the form of a clip-on buggy book ‘Out and About’ has been created, focusing on the roadside sights and sounds babies and toddlers experience when they are out and about.

For the pre-school and transitional material, six stories have been developed based on specially created characters. The approach has been carefully created to take into account the age of the child, with different materials adapted for each key stage of the early years.

How to use this approach

  • An important aspect of this approach is that all the materials are available universally for children, parents, carers and educators in Scotland.
  • The 0-3 buggy book ‘Out and About’ is distributed to all babies at the 6-16 weeks visit as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s Bookbug Baby Bag.
  • All early years establishments and primary 1 classes have been issued with a Big Book Set – a teaching pack containing the series of six Ziggy stories in big book format. (Further copies are available on request.)
  • A Big Book Set is available for any community setting where parents/carers attend with their young children.
  • The pre-school education sector and primary 1 classes receive copies of the little books to give directly to children for home.
  • The little books for home complement the work that’s done in class and maintains strong links between home and school.
  • The website allows visitors to interact with the stories and the activities, and also provides current information to parents and educators.

Sharing the stories

By taking children on a learning journey with Ziggy, real life road safety situations are brought to life in a memorable manner. The stories, clips and activities have been especially created to inspire a child’s interest in road safety learning. Sharing stories helps young children understand the world around them in a wonderful and natural way. Every time a child revisits the story they will gain more knowledge and understanding.

The real learning will come from the experiences children have. Use the story to start the learning journey then explore the key themes through active experiences and play.

The learning experiences should be shaped by the interests of the children and therefore can differ greatly from one situation to another. Because of this we offer just a few suggestions of across curriculum activities with links to the experiences and outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence. See examples of how other Early Years settings have gone on their own learning journeys to explore different road safety concepts.

The Author

Lynda Kennedy, the writer of Go Safe! Ziggy’s Road Safety Mission, writes about her experience of working on the project.

The brief from RSS was such an exciting challenge. After all it’s not every day that you’re asked to do a piece of work with the objective of saving lives. As a mum to a five-year-old, the job was all the more poignant. To think that kids like my little boy are being killed on our roads every day sent a chill down my spine. As I read through the requirement all I could think was that even if we succeeded in saving one child’s life it would be worth it. Hopefully, though, we’ll save a lot, lot more.

The idea of the Ziggy character came from working backwards from the brief. My background is in advertising and in many respects this was more like an ad job than a writing one: There were lots of facts to communicate in an engaging way and, as in advertising, the goal was to change behaviour.

So the challenge was this: How do you tell kids what to do (there’s no getting away from the fact that that’s what we’re doing) when as we all know they definitely, absolutely don’t like being told what to do. Ever.

The only way round this I could see was developing a character who was allowed to be clueless. And that’s in essence how Ziggy was born. Setting up the main character as ‘child’ alien visiting earth to learn about road safety allowed us to teach without being patronising. He allowed us to go back to basics, to get across the core messages of waiting and holding hands without any sense of hierarchy where big people do the telling and little people are expected to follow instructions. It seemed that it would be a more powerful piece of communication if we could also encourage our young readers to help Ziggy to learn. So when Ziggy’s thinking about what he should do before crossing, the children can whisper the ‘answer’ in Ziggy’s ear.

Placing Ziggy in a family with two children Maggie, 3 and Andrew, 5 and a bit (as they are in the first book) created an interesting dynamic where Andrew’s character could take the lead (he is, after all a big boy who knows the importance of holding hands and waiting) and Maggie who is still learning, but loves nothing better than to show of her new found knowledge.

Ziggy also allowed us to inject a little light comedy into the stories. After all, being from another world there are may things on our planet which confuse him: Like why anyone would want to throw their granny off a bus or why none of the sweets on this planet come in good flavours like cabbage.

Like all bubbly characters he has his own quirks, and one of these is his use of the phrase Zab-a-Ding-a-Doo which he uses when he’s happy. And of course, he’s always very happy when he crosses the road properly. Wouldn’t it be great if our young readers rewarded themselves a big Zab-a-Ding-a-Doo each time they crossed properly?

As the books follow our early years audience from nursery through to P.1 (an absolute genius idea from RSS to provide continuity of messaging from pre to primary school) the characters develop in ‘real time’. Maggie and Ziggy both grow up before our eyes – Maggie starts nursery in book 1 and school in book 6 – and by the end of the book series both she and Ziggy always cross safely.

Lynn Taylor, Mairi Blair, Kate Wheaton from RSS and the fabulous team from the Leith Agency and I have worked really closely from the outset. In fact, after our first meeting I felt I’d known the RSS gang for years. It’s not often you sit in a meeting where everyone shares the same passion. The RSS team have put so much thought into this project, far beyond even the road safety message. They stressed the need that the books should appeal to children and parents across the demographic spectrum and have a real sense of Scottish identity. This allowed me the freedom to write dialogue for Maggie and Andrew the way the kids their age talk and also led to the creation of Granny Walker, who lives in the countryside which also allowed us to talk about road safety in a rural context too.

Working on this project has been an incredible experience. I’m now much more aware of how parents cross roads with their children and have been really shocked by he amount of mums who allow their wee ones – incredibly, P.1 and even younger – to run ahead whilst crossing busy roads. It beggars belief. It’s also been an eye-opener seeing how many of them won’t walk a few yards (or is it metres? I’m showing my age now!) to cross with the lollipop lady. How are children supposed to learn?

We’ve always had parents as a target audience, so hopefully the messaging in the books will rub off on the big peeps too. I know that from speaking to Elaine, the lollipop lady at my son’s school, that she’s keen for more parents to use her when taking their children to and from school so they get into safe crossing habits at an early age. Let’s hope our first book Ziggy and the Lollipop prompts them to do just that!