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My husband and I bought our house chiefly because it is within walking distance of the elementary school our children attended.
There is a lovely walking path that cuts through a city park off the beaten path. Even in our quiet, safe area, our kids never walked to school alone.
What Age Should You Let Your Child Walk to School?
Children can start walking to school alone at age 10, this is according to The American Academy of Pediatrics. It is still a good idea to arrange walking with friends, neighbors, or other trusted people until they are through elementary school.
Why Young Children Shouldn’t Walk to School Alone?
My kids walked to and from school almost every day through the fifth grade. Our local elementary school is only one-half mile by foot, making it about an eight-minute walk for most children.
Driving to the school, on the other hand, took about 15 minutes. Due to traffic and lack of parking, the drive was rarely the better option.
The only days I drove my kids were when the weather was too intense to walk.
The walking path to my children’s school was about as safe as one could imagine. It is nestled away from any street or foot traffic.
Though it cuts through a park, the most dangerous animals are deer and the occasional snake. It’s the perfect walk for a young child.
Even with all of that safety in place, I could never justify sending a child to walk on their own. A young child probably won’t get lost, but it’s always a possibility if they’re not paying attention to where they are going.
Abductions in very safe areas are rare but not unheard of. A child can also get injured, and if it’s not a high-traffic area, they might not have anyone near who can help.
This is just the issue in my area. In more urban environments, walking to school might be even more dangerous. Heavily trafficked streets increase the risk of being hit by a car or encountering predators.
What Age is Okay for Walking to School?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that a 10-year-old is mature enough to take the walk alone if it is absolutely necessary. I think there is a better way.
Two or more children who live in the same neighborhood should walk together. Better still, a parent in the neighborhood can join the children as they all walk in safety.
Another option involves biking rather than walking. A bike gives a child the option of a quick getaway if they do encounter danger. Of course, this only works if the child is well-versed in bicycle safety.
A Safe Solution for Walking to School
As stated earlier, the ideal situation would be to have children walking together with an adult in charge. An excellent way to organize this is through a Walking School Bus.
What is a Walking School Bus?
A walking school bus is a safe and fun way for a group of children to walk to school together under the watchful eye of adult volunteers.
The concept is similar to a traditional school bus, but the children walk to school as a group instead of riding in a vehicle.
They follow a specific route with designated pick-up points and drop-off locations.
Walking school buses promote physical activity, reduce traffic congestion around schools, and encourage a sense of community among parents and children.
Most importantly, the adult volunteers ensure the children arrive safely at school and follow appropriate safety procedures while walking.
The Walking School Bus can be organized by your school, your school’s PTA, or an individual parent. It is very simple to put together and is extremely helpful for parents who want their children to walk but may not have the time or ability to join them.
Start by planning out a route. Your Walking School Bus can cover an area that is as big or small as you need.
When I organized a Walking School Bus for my children’s elementary school, I had several stops in my neighborhood. Kids would be dropped off by their parents, and then the “school bus” would pick them up.
The group started at the point that was furthest away, and then pick up more children at each stop as we went along. Parents often joined to help corral the children and keep them safe as we crossed the street.
Over time, we were even joined weekly by the mayor of our city who brought along a trash bag and gloves to pick up litter as we walked.
The Walking School Bus is a wonderful way to get children some fresh air and exercise before school. It is good for the planet, good for the kids and ensures everyone involved gets to school on time.
Walking to school is a good thing but it can also be dangerous. Ensure your kids have safety in numbers by finding others for them to walk with.
Do you think 10 is the right age for kids to walk to school? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!