The Happiness Connection  

Let your kid walk to school

Did you walk to school as a child? If you are of a certain age, chances are very good that the answer is yes.

Do you let your children walk to school?

There is a very good chance that you don’t. Statistics show that only about 25 per cent of children in Canada walk to school.

Depending on your age, you may have gone to school at a time when being driven was virtually unheard of. I remember walking to school without any parental supervision from the time I was five, regardless of the weather.

This topic came to mind last week when I was listening to an interview on CBC radio. The number of children walking to school has declined steadily over the past few generations.

Why are so many children being chauffeured, rather than making their own way? Safety. There is a false perception among parents that it isn’t safe for children to walk to school alone.

It is false because, according to the B.C. Children’s Hospital Research Institute, there has never been a safer time to be a child in Canada.

Ironically, one of the leading causes of death and injury for children today, is car accidents – the most common way that children get to school.

The other leading cause is suicide.

ICBC claims that six children are killed, and 370 injured every year in B.C., travelling to and from school. Considering the source of the data, I think it is safe to assume that the majority of these accidents involve cars.

By driving your kids to school, you are putting them, and the children you drive past at greater risk for being hurt.

Why is a column on happiness spending time laying out the facts about children walking to school? Because the benefits of travelling to school on foot, walk hand in hand with children being happier.

The health benefits of physical activity have been well documented. Advantages include an increase in concentration and a boost in positive feelings, both of which contribute to being happier and more successful in school.

You may be thinking that your child is very active with organized sports and doesn’t need more exercise, but walking to school has other rewards.

Children who make their own way to school have child development benefits as well. Among them are greater levels of independence, resilience, and confidence.

Walking also gives them opportunities to problem solve, make decisions, and connect with their community, nature, and other students who walk the same route.

All these things have been scientifically proven to boost happiness, as well as to aid child development.

Perhaps after reading this, you decide it is time to get your child walking to school. There are a few things you should think about before sending them off, especially if this is a new experience.

Getting started


You need to start with some ground work. Children need to know how to be safe on their way to school.

The best way to prepare them is to walk with them, and model good pedestrian behavior.

  • Don’t run across a road when the light is about to turn red.
  • Make sure you look both ways before crossing anywhere.
  • Cross at crosswalks.

It is important that they know how to make their way to school safely.

Have a plan B

Spend time talking about how to handle different situations that might occur, such as what to do if they walk home and no one is there, or if they have a problem on the way to school.

Start slowly

If this is a new activity, start by walking your children to school if you are able to. This will allow them to feel comfortable with it, and for you to monitor their preparedness to walk alone.

If you are a working parent who doesn’t have the luxury of walking with your child, do the walk in the evening or on the weekend, so they know the route and feel comfortable, or arrange for your child to walk with someone else in your neighbourhood.

Meeting your child part way is another good strategy, if they are anxious about walking alone. Gradually increase the length they walk before meeting you.

If they have friends in the neighbourhood, this can be a great compromise to the walking worry. They aren’t alone, but they are still needing to be responsible for themselves.

Wrapping kids up and protecting them from life isn’t the best way to create happy adults. Letting them walk to school without you is a great way to boost their happiness now, and in the future.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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