If you’ve ever thought about you and your child walking, riding or even scooting to school, this is the month to do it. Even though this morning’s weather was a bit on the chilly side, the weather is generally warmer and ‘just right’ to get outside.
Since 2006, VicHealth’s Walk to School has supported numerous primary students and their teachers and families to walk to school throughout October. Children in Prep are encouraged to walk (or ride) to school with their parents, but an older brother or sister or older child accompanying your child to school is fine, especially if walking or riding to school would be difficult.
So why walk to school?
It’s recommended that children have at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Children who walk or ride to school each day are more likely to be fitter and more active than others. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, research has shown that exercise is beneficial in helping your child think, concentrate and solve problems, all of which are essential skills when it comes to learning. So, walking to school will help your child get the amount of exercise they need to stay healthy and help them learn as well.
Walking, riding or scooting to school is also good for the environment. There are fewer car trips and it can promote a stronger sense of belonging and community.
Another benefit is that walking to and from school is a great time to spend with your child. You can give them individual attention – asking about their day or talking about the book you read together the night before – without the stress of keeping your eye on the traffic or trying to find a parking spot near the school. Walking or riding to school can be a fairly relaxing and your relationship with your child may grow by sharing this time together.
Walking is also a great way for your child to:
- get to know their local area
- meet other children in their neighbourhood
- learn safety skills, like crossing the road
- gain confidence and the ability to travel independently as they get older.
Isn’t it risky?
Common concerns like crossing roads, dealing with lots of traffic and possible danger from strangers often fade away when parents walk with their children. It is always a good idea to walk with your child for the first few times so that you can be sure they not only know the way to and from school but that they can get there and back safely.
At 6 years old, children have a wide range of physical skills. Some may show natural athleticism while others will work on accomplishing simple skills such as throwing or catching a ball. So they may not be ready to ride a bike to school, but they can certainly walk.
What’s happening at school
Most schools already have things in place that encourage your child to exercise and stay healthy. This includes sports days and activities as well as playtime. If your child’s school is participating in Walktober, this is just another way they are improving your child’s health and wellbeing.
Some schools have walking school buses where children and adults walk together at a designated time and pick up place so that everyone gets to school and home again safely. If your child’s school doesn’t have their own walking school bus, you can always start your own – especially if you live reasonably close to the school. For more information, see: Starting a walking school bus.
As an added incentive, VicHealth is also offering some great prizes for the school with the highest participation in each region.
How to get involved
You will need to give your consent for your child to participate. Your child’s school can also register them, but need your permission in writing first. You can register your child through the Walk to School website.