Tips and Ideas to Walk Your Kids to School
What could be better than starting the school day with a brisk walk in the fresh air? It pumps oxygen into a child's body, produces endorphins in the brain and gives the heart a good cardiovascular workout. In other words, it preps the mind and body for a day of learning and thinking.
Of course, parents want to ensure your kids get to and from school safely, especially if they're walking unsupervised. Here are some safety tips to consider if you're thinking of having your children walk to school:
- If your children are young, don't allow them to wear earbuds while walking. It's far too distracting. For teenagers, teach them to remove one earbud before crossing a street. It's amazing how much hearing can help detect traffic patterns.
- Let your child know to stay on the inside edge of the sidewalk, farthest away from traffic. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic so that oncoming cars are visible.
- Tell kids to never cross a street mid-block. Cross only at corners or crosswalks.
- And they shouldn't edge slowly into traffic as a means to cross a street. They should stay back from traffic until the intersection is clear or cars have stopped.
- Tell your kids to always make eye contact with drivers and acknowledge them with a wave when crossing the road to ensure drivers remain stopped until pedestrians are off the road.
- Make sure your kids don't assume crosswalks with pedestrian lights mean drivers are any more attentive. Always have them stop and look in both directions before crossing.
- In foul weather, have kids dress in lighter, brighter colours or include reflective strips or safety tags. Make it easy for drivers to see them.
Ask your school if a walking school bus already exists in your neighbourhood.
Walking School Bus
Never heard of a walking school bus? They're simply a chaperoned group of kids walking to and from school, led by a "driver" and followed in the rear by a "conductor." They pick up and drop off children at designated stops along their fixed route, just like a traditional school bus would do.
Ask at your school to find out if a walking school bus already exists in your neighbourhood. If you'd like to start a walking school bus yourself, here are some things to consider:
- If your school district doesn't have a formal walking school bus program, you can easily start one informally. All it takes is a minimum of two adults willing to walk their kids and some of their friends to and from school.
- As the walking school bus grows, so will the route. In order to keep things running smoothly, ensure pick up points and times are adhered to. You may want to start including more volunteer parents and possibly start new routes. Don't try to cover too much ground with just one train.
- Keep in mind some parents might be reluctant to join the walking school bus unless it's a formal program approved by the school district. If you decide to take your program to that level, be prepared for greater time commitment and increased volunteer efforts. But you'll also have more resources and be able to let more parents know about the program.
- Because children are sponges and absorb information quickly, it's crucial for parents to display safe pedestrian behaviours. Children will emulate what they see, especially from adults. This is an ideal opportunity to teach them traffic safety rules and how to make safe choices when walking to school.
- Regardless of structure or size, walking to school is an ideal way for kids to stay healthy, explore their community safely, and interact with students outside their grade and classroom. And by reducing the number of cars approaching the school, walking school buses also increase safety for everyone.
Do you and your kids walk to school, participate in a walking school bus, or have a walking tip or story to share? Leave a comment below to help other users be more TravelSmart.