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How to turn the school run into a stroll

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

A survey for the campaign group Living Streets for Walk to School Week in 2012 found that around one in five parents had never considered walking their children to school.

NHS Change4Life guidelines say children need at least an hour of exercise a day. Walking to and from school is a good way to incorporate more exercise into their days. It can avoid the extra stress of traffic jams and save on fuel costs too.

Getting rid of the school run is easier than you think

The two main reasons why it’s difficult to ditch the school run are simple:

  • Convenience - Despite heavy traffic, the school run is still usually quicker than walking a child to school and it’s warm and dry.
  • Safety - Allowing children to walk to school on their own, without your supervision, can seem a daunting prospect.

Convenience and safety might be two good arguments for the school run but they’re also easily overcome, with lots of benefits for your child. Here are some of the best ways to get kids walking to school conveniently and safely:

A walking bus

The walking bus is a group of children who make their way to and from school on foot, supervised by adults. The adults are drawn from parents of the group who might enjoy the regular, healthy walk, or even teachers. This way your child can get to school safely without the need for you to commit to dropping off and picking up every day.

If your school doesn’t currently have a walking bus scheme, find out more by contacting an organisation like Friends of the Earth for help.

Safe routes to school

Some groups like Sustrans, offer information on setting up School Travel Plans. Most of these are based around walking to school but also include wider traffic reduction methods, like cycling and car sharing.

Road safety training

If you’re a parent of a child who’s a little older and wiser, you might be thinking about letting them make their own way to school without adult supervision.

Seeing them go out of the door on their own might seem worrying at first, but putting them through a rigorous course of road safety training might help put your mind at rest. Most schools offer some kind of road safety course, as do many local councils. Visit your local government website for more information.

Quick road safety tips:

  • Make sure your children have comfortable shoes suitable for the walk
  • Keep MP3 players at home. They can be a distraction for kids when crossing the road
  • Walk the school route with your child at least once, crossing at all the “right” places (zebra crossings etc). This will help them to feel more confident and have a point of reference, when they’re on their own
  • Consider dressing your children in hi-visibility clothing, especially in winter. If they really won’t wear a luminous hi-vis vest, check out other reflective clothing options. There are lots of fashionable eye-catching children’s clothes available.
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