In the spring, our provincial government announced that among the various cuts happening with the budget, school bus transportation for public schools would take a big hit. OK, that’s not how they said it but parents in the province felt it, and more. In the new school year, if children in grades 1 through 8 live more than 1 KM away from the school, they will not be eligible for bus service. Parents were left in a lurch, trying to figure out the best alternative – some changed daycares, some even moved. Others arranged car-pools and some decided to try walking to and from school.
That’s a big step, excuse the pun! We live within the bussing area (luckily!) but my oldest started walking to and from school last year so I understand the hesitation with moving to this option, especially when kids are much younger than he was to start.
In our very first inMotion Sask Mom2Mom Podcast, we talked about walking to school (you can download and listen to it here!)
From that episode, and experts across the web, here’s a great list of tips and info should walking to school be in your family’s future:
- Practice: Even if you’re providing transportation to and from school at this point, there will come a day when they may need or want to walk. As you’re walking in the neighbourhood, to the park, or at the grocery store parking lot – teach your kids pedestrian safety. This summer, I worked on this with my girls, reminding them when we approached a 3-way stop near our house that they need to pay close attention to the street that has no stop sign. We also talked about cross-walks and that it’s OK to wave on a motorist if you’re not ready to cross just yet.
- Find a walking buddy: Not only is this a helpful safety measure because they have someone with them to judge those cross-walks and stop signs, drivers tend to pay more attention to groups of kids rather than a single person walking.
- Landmarks: On your practice walks, point out familiar landmarks along the way. A park nearby or a friend’s house are great ways for your child to judge how close they are to home – it’s also good to have a place they know, should they need to stop in for any reason.
- Clock it: Have a reasonable expectation of how long it takes to walk home from school, so you or a caretaker knows when that time is. Of course, practice walks with mom don’t account for the time it takes to stop and inspect a ladybug so add that in to your estimate when out for your practice walks. As your child gets more used to the route, start lagging a block or two behind to allow them the ability to cross streets on their own, while you can then later congratulate them on what you saw.
- No phone/electronics rule: Like drivers, have a no smart-phone/electronics rule when walking to and from school. We’ve all seen or heard about the ridiculous things that can happen when a grown adult is walking and on their smartphone, but for a child walking to school this can be hugely dangerous (I witnessed a child on a bike dart out in front of a car because he was looking down at his phone!) The same rule applies to headphones – children need to be alert and aware of their surroundings. If you make this a rule from day 1, it’s easier to keep (also, I find “if I hear from a friend that they saw you on your phone walking home…” works well too!)