Did you know that October is International Walk to School month? Wrap up in a warm jacket and help your little ones enjoy some of the myriad of benefits of physical exercise, including improved academic performance, reduced anxiety, better sleep, a sense of independence and an opportunity to notice small details. There are lots of resources to keep the kids entertained on the way, and start building the habit of active travel in our children.
Walking to school has so many benefits, including kids’ health, happiness, or even attention span. (It also reduces GHG emissions!) But how can we make it easier for kids to enjoy their walk to school? The Ottawa Safety Council has great resources to help get kids to school safely. You can also check out Ontario Active School Travel's trip poster to help your little ones see the accumulation of steps taken during walks to school, they also have resources for school administrators and community members as well as parents, who want to enable students to walk, bike, and roll to school.
Student Travel Services have made these really fun bingo cards to help kids spot things while they're making their way to school, as well as child readiness resources to help you feel confident as you teach your child the fundamentals of walking to school safely. Walking to school can also be made fun by using the Hop! app, developed by EnviroCentre and the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority and financially supported by the Ontario Government and Green Communities Canada. Walking to school is good for kids because it helps to improve their academic performance, reduces anxiety, results in better sleep, gives them an opportunity to learn the neighbourhood and gain a sense of independence.
Fewer children walk to school these days than in the past. Research shows safety is the biggest issue, where parents feel that the streets are unsafe, or the routes to school aren’t safe for kids to walk. So, what can be done to improve kids' safety on their daily walk to school? The 8 80 Cities program in Toronto is running a School Streets pilot, creating a car-free environment in front of schools at the start and end of the school day to prioritize safe walking conditions for children, their caregivers and teachers. We can create safe spaces around schools for our children with careful planning to help build active transportation into the school day.
Closer to home, School Streets Ottawa is advocating for safer school zones, cleaner air and healthier communities by promoting active mobility to Ottawa schools. They recently surveyed candidates for the Ottawa City election for their views. Green Communities Canada has also developed a School Travel Planning framework that brings together school and community stakeholders to address transportation problems and increase active modes of school travel.
There are so many great resources out there to help you get the kids walking to school, let's get them building those active habits now!