Kids · Parenting

7 Reasons Your Kids Should Walk To School

Today marks the start of the National Walk To School week organised by UK charity Living Streets. This 5-day challenge has been running for over 20 years as part of May’s National Walking Month and encourages children (and parents) to walk, cycle, scoot or ‘park and stride’ to school.  The number of children who walk to school on a regular basis has fallen over the years, when just a generation ago saw 70% choosing to walk in comparison to the reported 51% now; a number which continues to fall. In 2022 over 750 schools and 200,000 took part in the initiative and the hope the numbers will be even greater this year.

The aim of Walk To School week is not only to encourage young people to move more and achieve the recommended 60 active minutes a day, but to show them that by making small changes they are able to make a big difference. Each year the Walk To School challenge unveils a theme with 2023’s being Walk With Wildlife. Schools are able to utilise the colourful and engaging resources from Living Streets to track their students progress in the classroom as well as use themed lesson plans to engage in conversations around themes linked to walking including mindfulness, friendship, health and inclusion. If your school isn’t taking part don’t worry you are also able to download a free family activity book and diary which includes fun ideas for you and your children to complete on your walk to school or nursery.

So what exactly are the benefits of walking to school and why should you consider taking part? 

Stay Healthy

Walking is exercise that you don’t even realise you are doing! By walking to school you are helping contribute to that all important recommended 60 minutes of activity a day as well as creating good habits for your children’s future. Regular exercise will help reduce their risk of obesity and heart disease plus walking is the most accessible form of exercise; it’s free and you can do it come rain or shine; just grab a waterproof or a brolly!

It’s not only our bodies that can be kept healthy with regular walking but our minds. Statically one in four people will suffer with mental health issues at some point in our lifetime and walking is a great way to help boost mood. Research shows that even a stroll at a comfortable pace can promote the release of endorphins which stimulate relaxation and help improve your mood, helping decrease anxiety and stress.

Teach Road Safety

The on foot commute to school provides the perfect opportunity to discuss and practise road safety skills with your child. Using this time to discuss safe places to cross, general awareness of cars and other road users plus pedestrian safety will help educate them for a time in the future when they may have to walk somewhere independently. By casually discussing these points on your every day walk your child will be able to see and implement your advice in real time helping to reinforce the learning.

Be Social

Walking to school is a great way to spend  quality time with family and friends and gives your child the perfect opportunity to discuss what they have coming up for the day or what they got up to at the weekend. It provides the opportunity to play a fun game of I-spy or even point out and chat about some of the local landmarks or nature along the way that you’d completely miss in the car. Even better it’s a chance to be together without the distraction of electronics!

Get Ready To Learn

It’s been proven that walking can help improve cognitive function which is beneficial to children who need to go into school ready to learn. Walking and exercise helps strengthen parts of the brain which support the ability to think creatively, focus, make decisions and retrieve key information; all of which are highly beneficial to your child’s learning and success in the classroom. By taking that short walk to school every morning you are helping your child to enter the classroom energised, focussed and ready for the day of teaching ahead.

Help The Environment

By ditching the car and travelling more sustainably you will be helping to not only reduce congestion and air pollution around the school gates but also helping to reduce your personal carbon footprint. In the UK road transport is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions making up 27% of the total emitted yearly with half a million tonnes of CO2 from the school run alone contributing to that figure. It may seem like a small change however if we all walked instead of drove even a couple of times a week this would help make a significant difference.

Make The Roads Safer

If you ever pass a school at drop off time you are likely to see cars everywhere resembling the beginning of a post apocalyptic movie. Often abandoned or stopping quickly to evacuate their passengers before zooming off again and in many cases not taking into account the pedestrians in the vicinity. It’s a problem many schools struggle to police, but by walking to school much of the traffic on the roads around schools could be eased. By deciding not to take the car you are helping make the roads safer for not just students on their way to school but also for other road users. 

Save Money

The cost of living crisis in the UK has seen prices on everything sky rocket and fuel hasn’t escaped. With bill and food prices soaring people are really feeling the pinch to cover just everyday items making it a no brainer to try and make savings elsewhere. By walking to school on a regular basis you can easily save money on your fuel cost, especially as most school run commutes are under 2 miles. Even cutting your car journeys down by one or two a week will help save you a decent amount across your yearly budget.

Find out more about Walk To School week on the Living Streets website or why not take part in the year long WOW challenge and really up your walking game! Don’t forget to share your updates using #walktoschoolweek on social media.

You can also find downloadable Walk To School week resources on Twinkl

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