There will come a time when your child will start expressing an interest in wanting to start walking to and from school by themselves. They will be eager to have a little bit of independence but all children are different and some are more responsible than others. Only you, as the parent, will know when the time is right.
My eldest started asking when he was allowed to walk home from school by himself by the time he was in Year 4. I didn’t feel he was quite ready to take that step to independence then but by Year 5, we were allowing him to walk most of the way home and would meet him at the top of our road. For us, it was good practice for when he started secondary school.
If you are considering allowing your child to walk to and from school by themselves, here are ways you can help them stay safe.
Practice the route to school
The first thing to do (especially if it’s a new school) is to do a practice run of the route you want them to walk and advise them not to divert or change it. I did this just this week to confirm the route for my eldest to walk to and from his new secondary school. We even drilled details down to where he should cross the road and which side of the road to walk on to avoid having to cross again needlessly. Explain to them the reason why your chosen route is the one they should take. For us, the chosen route means my son is not walking down smaller side streets and is always on the main road where there are cars and people so he remains easily visible to others.
Have walking buddies
Where possible, arrange for your child to walk with a group of friends. Not only can they socialise on the way to school, they can also learn to be independent together and watch out for each other should anything untoward happen.
Give them a Personal safety alarm
A personal safety alarm can help your child feel safe in the knowledge that they have a deterrent to use should any danger arise. There are many types of personal safety alarms out there so you may wish to do your research to find the right one for your child. For example, the Ashley Personal Safety Alarm is lightweight and can be easily attached to you or your belongings. Should your child feel threatened they simply pull firmly on the pin and a 130db alarm will sound along with a bright flashing LED strobe. You can buy the Ashley Personal Safety Alarm here.
Stay alert, no distractions
There can be distractions on the walk to and from school – use of mobile phones, messing around with friends. Teach your child the importance of staying alert and to be aware of their surroundings. I made it clear to my son that he wasn’t to walk with his head in his phone. I have seen so many kids do this and it means they are so immersed with what’s on screen they are not taking in what is going on around them and end up crossing the road without their attention fully checking for cars.
Use apps to track their location
With your child’s permission, you can set up a location tracker on their phone so you know their whereabouts on the way to and from school. Phones these days will have GPS trackers which makes this easier. iPhone users can use “Find my friends” and for other phones, there will be apps out there that will do similar.
These are just some ways you can help keep kids safe on the way to and from school. Do you have any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them!