Calling all parents! It’s Walk to School Month.
Here’s why it matters:
- Walking to school has (profound) benefits for kids…
- But busier roads, plus more parents working full-time, means the school walk is in decline…
- So, how can parents get their children walking to school?
- And how can the PTA help?
Walking to school has (profound) benefits for kids…The school walk…
… can improve children’s health
Scarily enough, the roots of cardiovascular disease can start in early childhood. Physical activity helps guard against it. And, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, one key form of exercise that promotes good heart health in children is…the simple walk to school. The school walk…
… can boost children’s creativity.
Our creativity increases by 60% when we are walking – and those effects linger even after we’ve sat down. That was a finding from America’s Stanford University. And, last year, a meta-analysis of studies looking at the relationship between creativity and achievement found that creativity boosts academic success… The school walk…
… can guard against stress and depression.
The Mental Health Foundation says that one in 10 children and young people experience mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. In a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine a team of Chinese researchers found that people who spend a lot of time sitting are 25% more likely to experience depression than those who are more active. A daily walk helps to protect children against that mental stress.
So, why are fewer and fewer children walking to school?
According to livingstreets.org.uk, the UK charity behind Walk to School Month, these days less than half of all primary aged children walk to school. There are plenty of reasons why that’s happening. In urban areas busy traffic and air pollution can put parents off. In some rural areas there aren’t safe routes (or even pavements) that would enable children to walk to school. With many more parents working full-time, some need to drop their children to school on their way in to work. And sometimes it’s just easier to drive (you’re late, it’s raining, the kids are whinging…)
But with the benefits of walking outweighing the hassle, what can parents do to get today’s children out of the door in time for a healthy amble to school?
How can parents get their children walking to school?
- Make them care about walking!
If your children want to walk to school, your life will be so much easier. Some kids will be motivated to get out there if they understand the health benefits of a daily stroll. Others will only go if they have an added incentive to walk (a sticker for every school run they complete on foot, leading up to a small prize once they’ve clocked up enough stickers). Others will want to walk if they get to knock for a friend and walk together. Some children will be keener to walk if there’s a dog involved (offer a daily school dog walk to the pooch of an elderly neighbour).
- Check out the Classlist parent map
The Parent Map on Classlist lets you share details about where you live with other parents. You can then message parents who live near by to suggest being walking buddies, forming a cycle group or even a walking school bus. You can also use the map to work out all your options for walking to school, so you can pick the back streets with the lightest traffic.
- Create a walking support group
If you work part-time you could think about forming a walking support group with a couple of other parents who also work flexible hours. You offer to walk their child to/ from school a couple of days/ mornings/ afternoons a week and they do the same for your child on other days. It gives your child a chance to form a good friendship with the other child and to reap the benefits of walking to school.
- Hire a child walker
Another option is to ask for local child minders who are willing to walk your child/ a small group of children to school. That option will have a small cost attached, but it gets your child(ren) walking and frees up a bit of child-free time for you in the morning.
- Find a new parking spot
If you would walk if you could, but can’t because your local roads aren’t accessible to walkers/ you need to have the car to go on to work, there is an option. Look for somewhere (a local park/ back street) that is a 10 – 15-minute walk from school, park and walk in from there. Or, think about parking your car near your child’s school in the evening, walking home, walking them to school the next day and then going on in the car. It is more effort, but it will have health benefits for the whole family.
How can the PTA help?
- Send a reminder via Classlist that October is Walk to School Month.
- Remind parents about the Parent Map on Classlist – parents can share details about where they live and message each other to create walking buddies, cycle groups or a walking school bus.
- Create a ‘Sponsored Walk’ event – get children to walk to school, with friends/ neighbours/ family sponsoring them 10p for every day they walk in October.
- Share Living Street’s information about Walk to School Month on Classlist. See https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/what-you-can-do/campaigns/international-walk-to-school-month.
- Create a school-wide competition – a small prize / house points to the class / house that does the most walking to school in one week.
- Fund a Breakfast Club, so that parents who need to work can walk their children to school early and drop them at Breakfast Club – giving them time to get to school and get to work without relying on the car.