Walking to school is an excellent way to add regular daily physical activity, and report after report shows that today’s children are not nearly as active as they need to be in order meet healthy outcomes. In fact, “93% of Toronto youth are not meeting recommended daily requirements needed to derive health benefits from physical activity” (Get Active Toronto, 2011). A brisk walk to and from school each day will help improve overall fitness but requires a number of good decisions every step of the way to ensure safety.
Aside from crossing the street and walking alone, children need basic instruction on sidewalk safety and how to recognize cars in reverse from their driveways (a task made more difficult with an MP3 and earbuds).
If the route from your home to the school includes a street crossing then consider the safest option under these conditions:
- At a location where there are stop signs
- At a location with traffic signals
- At a location with a school crossing guard
- At any location with moving traffic
Never assume that children know what to do in order to cross safely – it is a skill that must be taught. Parents may remind children to stop and look both ways or preferably left-right-left, but do children know what to look for or are they just turning their heads to please their parents?
Children typically have developed the cognitive skills to safely cross the street independently by 10 years of age according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is important for parents to use this age as a guideline, but not as a rule. Based on the child’s readiness and the environment between home and school, parents can delay this expectation and continue to provide the necessary protection.
The following safety tips are provided to parents and caregivers to help young pedestrians navigate their way to and from school, work and play.
Parents & Caregivers:
Begin to teach your children pedestrian safety as soon as they start walking
Remind children to look left, right and left again before crossing the street
Encourage children to cross at cross-overs, with crossing guards or at signaled intersections
Plan a route for getting to and from school
Ensure that backpacks and lunch bags are not overly cumbersome for young children
Do not use MP3 while walking in order to hear the traffic
Use reflective materials on jackets, hats, shoes and bags
Role model good pedestrian safety skills
Don’t walk and text
Other interesting links:
When can my child walk to school alone? Click here to read the article
Our friends from Toy Story show us how not to cross the street…