There is no time like the present to start improving our habits, and that involves the habits we’re teaching our children. These days children grow up being driven everywhere. According to a recent study, less than half the kids who live within a 15 minute walk from school, actually walk to school. This is in spite of the fact that most of the kids in the study wanted to walk.
Their grandparents walked to school, rode their bikes or took the bus. Why have things changed?
The world has changed considerably since the grandparents of today’s primary school children were making their way to school under their own steam. Deakin University found that traffic is a major concern for 45% of parents today and 20% of parents are afraid of “stranger danger” and don’t want to take any chances. And then there were 22% of parents who thought their child was too young to walk on their own, or that their child might not be responsible enough to have that kind of independence.
Parents undoubtedly think they’re doing the best for their children when they drive them to school. However according “The Backseat Report”, a UK paper, their reasons for driving them, for the most part are unjustified, and actually increase the risks to their children – “We believe that getting a lift to school every day limits the horizons, leading to isolated, vulnerable children”.
Walking or cycling to school is beneficial
- Children are in contact with nature during this time
- Adds more daily exercise to their routine
- Has a beneficial effect on mood by reducing anxiety and anger
- Reinforces a sense of being a part of the community
- Added responsibility brings a sense of empowerment and a feeling of independence
- Increases a child’s power of concentration which can last up to 4 hours
It’s recommended by the Australian Federal Government that all children get at least an hour of moderate exercise daily. However not even 20% are getting that much, so walking or taking a bicycle to school is a perfect way to add exercise to their routine.
Harold Scruby, the chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, announced that “Research recommends that children should not be crossing a road without holding an adult’s hand until about the age of 10. So if your child is younger than 10, walk with them.” If you live too far from school to walk with, go ahead and drive but park a few hundred meters away, get out and walk or ride bikes the rest of the way. It’ll be fun and while exercising you can discuss road safety.
There are huge benefits that come with your child being in a better mood and more focused for a day in the classroom, and these benefits affect you too. You’re going to have a healthier, happier, and more focused child. They will gain a feeling of independence learn important life lessons and how to better manage their time. They have to learn responsibility as they must take care of locking up their bike and helmet and if they’re taking the bus, not losing their bus pass.
If you still have reservations about allowing your child to get to school on their own, then have a talk with your school’s principal. They may have a Walking-School Bus program in your district that you can take advantage of.