Ten Reasons for Your Child to Walk to School

This article is the third in a series on how kids get to school in America. Part one can be found here, and part two can be found here. This will be the last post on this topic for a few weeks.

We’ve been talking about walking to school for a while. But… this seems like a lot of work. Maybe the way we’re doing things right now are working pretty well for us. Why should we consider doing anything differently? In short…

Why does it matter if my kids walk to school?

1. We’ve talked about this bit before: Kids who walk to school can concentrate better.

2. It gets us out of our ruts. When kids walk to school, they tend to choose walking for other trips, too. We call this a virtuous cycle and it’s, you know… virtuous.

3. They get the chance to eat worms. I’m sure it’s good for their immune systems; exposure therapy and all that. But really, the opportunity to interact with their environment is a low-key adventure that we can’t take or granted anymore. Crunchy snow, splashy puddles, frosty spiderwebs, and yes, worms after a rain – all things we don’t experience through a car window.

4. Kids who walk to school are healthier. The experts recommend at least an hour a day of physical activity for kids; a good twenty-minute walk to and from school goes a long way toward meeting that recommendation.

5. There seem to be developmental benefits to allowing kids to walk to school. We’ve heard a lot about helicopter parenting, but research is beginning to show that it’s really important for kids to be able to practice making good, independent decisions from a young age.

6. It’s fun. CJ is in kindergarten right now, and doing things that I swear I learned in third grade. Naptime is long gone, and frankly, sometimes she feels the pressure. Going for a walk is a natural way to decompress, something that kids need, too. And if there happen to be some mud puddles to stomp in, all the better. (For her, not my floors.)

7. It decreases the amount of traffic on our roads. This makes walking safer for everyone in the neighborhood, reduces the need for road repairs or new construction (wear and tear is EXPENSIVE), and improves neighborhood air quality.

8. It frees up parents’ time (eventually). We’ve talked before about how much time we’re spending ferrying our kids around town. It turns out that this has been studied: “women in particular make about two-thirds of the trips, picking up and dropping off other people.” To a certain extent this is a normal component of modern parenthood, but teaching our children to get themselves around in an independent and age-appropriate way allows us to spend our time on whatever other callings we may have. You know, like laundry. So you can get to bed before midnight.

9. You save on gas money. Go buy yourself a cup of coffee, instead.

10. It strengthens your community. You say hi to the neighbor walking their dog on the way to school every day. Before long, that person who used to be a stranger is someone you know and trust. Talk about priceless.

Even if having your kids walk to school isn’t something that works for you right now (it doesn’t for us!), you can still lay the groundwork for their future lives as pedestrians TODAY. The National Center for Safe Routes to School has a decent age-graded PDF on how to help your kids develop strong pedestrian skills. There are things we do so automatically that it doesn’t occur to us to teach them. Okay, honestly – I found it a little bit over-protective. But it does give a good sense of where kids are developmentally at different times.

And remember, everything we talk about here is intended to be in the context of overall community livability, meaning that young, old, single, and disabled members of our community should all be able to participate fully in the life of the neighborhood. Helping our kids walk to school is part of making our neighborhoods strong for everyone.

Perhaps you’d consider a walk today?

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