Why should you let your child walk to school?
There have been numerous studies lauding the benefits of children walking to school. Besides the obvious benefit of physical activity, studies have shown that children who walk to school concentrate better in class and get better grades. In other articles we have talked about how nature can calm us down, help us think, and relieve stress. When children walk in the morning they are getting a great dose of all those benefits right before school. Even if they are not out in the woods, they are still outside, listening to birds sing, noting the moon in the sky, feeling a breeze on their face. They arrived relaxed, awake, and refreshed, ready to learn for the day. In addition children who walk get to practice being independent. The first time my daughter walked home she was glowing with pride. Letting her walk told her more clearly than words ever could, that I thought she was trustworthy and capable.
Balancing safety and growth isn’t always easy
Often as parents we struggle to find the right balance between safety and independence for our children. We also have societal pressures and sometimes pressures from the other parent going against what we believe to be in the best interest of our children. Many parents feel that it is just too dangerous to let kids walk to school. Other parents might be afraid to let their child walk because of fear of being judged.
Take a deep breath because it has never been safer to be a kid.
According to government statistics, child mortality rates in the United States from everything, abduction, disease, accidents, etc is down to .01 percent. That is something to celebrate!
What about kidnapping?
If you’re like most parents, you’re probably worried about child abduction, stay calm. According to FBI statistics, reports of missing children are down 40% since 1997. Of the missing child reports, contrary to our fears, stranger abductions are down even further. Most missing child reports are from children running away from home. About half of actual kidnappings are by family members, and a quarter are by family acquaintances. In 1999, the most recent year we have statistics for, only 115 children, nationwide were abducted by a stranger. Crime rates overall have been falling since then so it is a reasonable assumption that even fewer children are being abducted today. To put this in perspective, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, that same year 1,311 children died in car accidents. So driving your kids in a car was over 11 times more dangerous, yet parents still drove their kids everywhere.
What about cars hitting my child?
This is actually a more legitimate concern than kidnapping as there were 205 deaths in 2014 from children being hit by motor vehicles. Again though, driving your child to school is actually more dangerous as 602 children died in cars in 2014. Also, according to a report from Safe Kids USA , child pedestrian injury rates are down 40% since the 1990’s. There has been a huge push for increased walking safety measures such as crosswalks and crossing guards and it is obviously making a real difference. However, don’t just send your child out there to learn traffic laws by themselves. Walk with them a few times, help them to understand traffic signals, and then let them lead the way a few times. When they can navigate it all safely while leading the way, you will know they are capable of walking alone.