RIVERSIDE: “Kindy 500” uses fun to teach children about traffic rules, safety and “stranger danger”

RIVERSIDE — Children had the opportunity to enjoy a fun morning learning about “stranger danger,” traffic rules, road signs and basic roadway safety during the Kindy 500 Traffic Safety Fair. The fair, which was the perfect opportunity for the kindergartners to enjoy a positive, early interaction with police officers who put on the event, was held this morning at Magnolia Elementary School.

Children line up with their one-of-a-kind vehicles, ready to take on the mean streets of Magnolia Elementary in Riverside. Riverside Police Department photo

Officers from Riverside and San Bernardino City Unified School District Police Departments partnered with Riverside Unified School District to bring this year’s race day – Kindergarten style – to another year’s worth of excited children, who were more than a bit eager to participate in the morning’s activities.

This year’s fleet of Kindy 500 entrants included a wide and interesting variety of cars, trucks and work vehicles, including the always popular police cars and fire trucks, as well as an assortment of other colorful entries.

Among other vehicles, there were two different versions – one red, one blue – of Lightning McQueen; a John Deere tractor, an ice cream truck – complete with a shade awning and pictures of different ice creams; a Spider-man car with spiders, webs and spider themed-wheels; an old-fashion black hot rod with bright red and yellow glitter flames; and a pink pickup truck sporting black flames.

The custom, one-of-a-kind vehicles were made out of cardboard boxes and all featured custom paint and designs. Many had dashboards that included speedometers and steering wheels made from paper plates and some even featured working doors, turning interior knobs, shiny tinfoil grills, custom license plates and tail-lights made out of red plastic cups.

Some of the children in attendance wore costumes or hats that matched their personally made rides.

After listening intently to a presentation – put on this year by RPD Officer Leyva and SBCUSD Officer Walker – the children excitedly strapped on their cardboard box cars and prepared to put what they had seen and learned into effect while driving on a mock city street brought to the event specifically for the kids to practice their new “driving skills” on.

The miniature, city street mock-up included a divided roadway with multiple lanes, and intersections, flashing traffic signals and realistic-looking street signs; and even had sidewalks, crosswalks and a railroad crossing.

As their younger counterparts “drove” their unique vehicles around the small street and practiced stopping for stop signs and traffic signals, older students could be seen walking by – looking longingly at the fun and freedom few others than kindergartners feel.

Officers Leyva and Walker later said in a social media post that they loved the different cars the children made and had fun teaching the “fantastic” students.

Kindy 500 – A fun-filled day of learning to remember forever

MommiesTots.com/Pinterest image

Kindy 500’s, which have gained popularity around the nation in recent years, are often sponsored by school districts or area businesses and often involve participation from local law enforcement and/or fire representatives.

Many include miniature buildings typically seen in any town, such as fast food restaurants, banks, post offices, police and fire stations and car washes. Many of the buildings have interactive features, such as drive-thru’s at the fast food restaurants, flashing caution signals outside the fire station, “working” gas station pumps and bubble machines that blow bubbles at the car wash.

Some Kindy 500’s have safety-related themes and some have races, while others focus more on fun and feature parades where the children get to show off the result of all their hard work and effort.

Some events have students bring in their favorite Big-Wheel or tricycle, while others encourage the children to “design and build” their own cars out of cardboard boxes or other lightweight materials, held up by string or suspenders.

Many events even have “drive-in movies” where the children get to sit inside their vehicles while watching a movie, often a cartoon or car-themed movie. Obviously, Pixar’s recent “Cars” cartoons, “Herbie The Love Bug” movies or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” are annual favorites.

No matter what style of Kindy 500 hosted for children, their excited and receptive response is usually the same and the memories of their fun day at the races tend to last forever.

Want ideas to help you prepare for or even hold your own Kindy 500? Visit the following pages for ideas, descriptions, photographs and more: Events to celebrate, Emmymom2, and on Pinterest here, here, or here.

Click any image to open full-size gallery.


Contact the writer: [email protected]

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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.