Walking to school is its own education
Being able to walk to and from school everyday was one of my favourite parts of childhood. It was my first taste of independence and I relished the quiet time of strolling along at my own pace. I made friends with children who also lived in our neighbourhood and by grade 6 I knew every rock, tree, shortcut, child, house and barking dog along the route. Through all that walking, my backyard extended and I felt a belonging to the local area and community.
Things have changed since 1991. According to VicHealth, only one in five Victorian children walk to school regularly. This is 50% below 1970 levels. Parents are time poor, have greater commitments and frequently live an unmanageable distance from school, making foot or bike travel difficult for many families. Recent Monash University studies have shown that children’s view of their trip to school is often of a car dashboard.
Dr Justen O’Conner of Monash University suggests “if we want children to be capable, confident, healthy, risk aware and environmentally conscious members of our society then active travel to school is a great place to start. As more and more children walk and cycle to school the risks diminish and the multiple benefits to the community and individuals are realised.”
October is Walk to School month – Walktober. The international program with the aim of tackling childhood obesity and encouraging healthy habits and independence. VicHealth runs its own Walk to School month and CEO Jerril Rechter adds that walking “is a fantastic way to connect with your kids. Walking time is talking time for parents and children … it’s easier to talk to your children about what’s happening at school and in their lives.”
Benefits of walking to school:
- teaches kids independence and confidence
- teaches time management, as children need to ensure they leave on time
- walking is great exercise
- foot travel is great for the environment
- children learn about their local community and environment
- children learn risk awareness
- walking allows quality time for parents and children to talk about their day
So, how do you fit walking to school into your already busy week?
Try to pencil in walking to school time just as you would sports or music practice. If you live a fair distance from school, perhaps drive part of the way and walk the rest, once you’ve established a safe walking route. If you really are strapped for time, you could nominate one day a week as ‘walk to school day’, or perhaps arrange a ‘walking bus’ with friends or neighbours.