Letting your children walk to school can be an emotive subject. We all want our kids to grow up to be independent. There are however lots of things that hold us back, is it safe to walk, its too far, are the roads too busy and what about strangers ? Most high school children have to get themselves to school so it is a good idea to start teaching them how to be safe from a younger age. Hopefully we can give you some pointers on walking to school safely.
We are lucky that where we live is only about 1/2 a mile from both the local primary and high school so both my girls walk to school. The younger one walks with a friend and they only have one road to cross that has a lollipop man at it. She has been walking from the age of 8 and it gives her some daily exercise and fresh air before she starts school. Before they walked alone we made sure they knew the route to take and walked it together to show them where to cross safely and dangers to look out for.
I know that not everyone is as lucky as us and many children do need to be taken to school due to the distance or parental work commitments however it is still important to ensure your children have enough knowledge to keep them safe when out and about.
Stranger danger is a real fear for lots of parents and many are unwilling to let their primary age children out on their own. In reality the chances of children being abducted by a stranger are very small however it is important to chat to your children about how to stay safe. Statistically children are more at risk of abuse from someone they know.
The term stranger danger on its own is not always helpful, it can stop children asking for help if they are in a difficult situation. From a young age it is a good idea to teach your children what to do if they get separated from you in a busy shop etc. Let them know they can talk to shop staff, another parent with a child etc and to ask for help. The easily-remembered phrase ‘Safer Strangers, Safer Buildings’ gives children a immediate strategy to use. There is lots more good information available to help your children feel safe over on Netmums.
A walking bus is an organised group of children who walk to school together accompanied by volunteers. There is no actual bus! Most councils already have helpful guidelines in how to set up a walking bus so if there is not one in your area you may be able to help set one up. If a formal walking bus is too difficult to set up then an informal one with some local mums can also work if you take a turn in walking the children back and forth to school.
Road Safety Training
Teaching children road safety should start from a young age. Teach your toddler to hold your hand when crossing the road, and make them aware of the dangers. Tell them where it is safe to cross at pedestrian and zebra crossings. As they get older you can incorporate more information and let then start to make decisions about when it is safe to cross. There is a great interactive road safety quiz with questions etc available online. There is also a government website which is suitable for older children but I must admit I found it a bit scary so I would take a look yourself first before letting the kids loose on it!
Many schools also organise road safety training as part of the curriculum which I think is a great idea as it is a key skill all children need to learn.
Dressing the part
If your children are starting to walk to school then you may need to ensure they have suitable footwear for the wet winter days along with a cosy coat, hat and gloves. Make sure they have a waterproof jacket as there is nothing worse than getting soaked before you start the day. Also think about the colours they wear, can they be easily seen in the grey mornings ? You could think about using fluorescent and reflective armbands, bright school bags etc
Do your children walk to school ? Would you like them to but don’t feel it is safe ? We would love to hear your thoughts.