Walking to and from school is a great way to fit physical activity in your kids’ everyday lives. But it does more than just benefit their health – it also helps kids spend time with other kids, have fun, and become connected with the world around them. In short, it’s good for their overall wellbeing, too.
But when is the right time to for kids to walk to school? Many parents want their kids to walk, ride or scoot to school but might not know where to start. In this article, we’ll help you understand:
- How to know if your kids are ready to walk to school on their own
- What are the health benefits
- How it helps kids’ overall wellbeing
- Tips for preparing kids to walk to school
- How to make walking to school fun
Be Healthy was created by VicHealth to provide helpful tips and advice on how you and your family can stay healthy. You can read more Be Healthy articles here.
When is the right time for kids to walk to school?
As parents, you know your kids best – so you’re in the best position to work out if they’re ready to walk to school. If it helps, think about things like:
- Your child’s age
- Their maturity level and understanding of road safety
- How child-friendly your neighbourhood is
- Whether the route to school has pedestrian crossings
If you think your child isn’t ready, that’s okay! You can build their skills until you feel like they’re ready, by increasing opportunities to walk or ride to and from local playgrounds and cafes, and chatting with your child about how to travel safely in the community.
What are the health benefits?
Walking isn’t just a fun activity in the morning and afternoon, it also helps kids stay healthy and active by:
- Helping develop strong bones, muscles, and joints so kids can run and jump around
- Boosting energy levels so kids can concentrate better during class
- Teaching kids about independence and boosting their confidence
- Learning coping skills and building resilience – a key factor in children’s mental wellbeing
Walking to school in the morning provides an opportunity to get ready for the day, and walking home from school gives kids the chance to de-compress from the day that was.
How it helps overall wellbeing
Giving your kid the go-ahead to walk or bike ride to school solo can help boost their self esteem and sense of independence. VicHealth’s research study, ‘Nothing but fear itself,’ found travelling independently helped kids develop better spatial awareness, decision-making, self-confidence and knowledge about their local neighbourhood.
Another VicHeath study found kids who travel to school independently are more likely to be active than kids who travel to school with their parents.
How to make walking to and from school safe as well as fun
The trip to and from school is the perfect opportunity to reinforce road rules and safe travel skills. It gives parents the chance to talk about why these rules exist, and discuss safety issues in a supportive way.
To make the walk/ride to and from school even safer, you can:
- Help your child become familiar with the local neighbourhood
- Set a good example by walking or cycling to local places, like the café or playground
- Recognise and praise improvements in your child’s skills and behaviour
- Create a plan together, for what to do if things go wrong. This is a great opportunity to see what your child knows about safety, and gives you an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and confidence.
How to use the time walking to school to explore fun activities
Walking to school can be a time to enjoy games and activities together. You can play ‘I Spy’ as you go, or the alphabet game.
You could map your own adventure trail to incorporate more sights and sounds in the neighbourhood, and discover what’s in your own backyard. We have activity sheets on our Walk to School Campaign website that you can use to make the route to school an exciting journey.
Walking to school is a great activity for kids. It increases self-confidence, gives kids a chance to connect with the world around them, and boosts their overall health.
Make sure you follow government health advice when it comes to walking to school in a COVID-safe way. Wash your hands well and often, and maintain at least 1.5 metres from other people. And, above all, enjoy your child’s new-found independence!
Learn more about our Walk to School campaign at www.walktoschool.vic.gov.au/families