Home » International Walk to School Month: Encouraging the Kids
October marks the start of International Walk to School Month!
Over 40 countries participate in this annual activity to celebrate the exercise of walking and to educate children on the benefits of a habit we must work hard to maintain in our modern culture.
Benefits of Walking to School
- Social interaction with other children and friends of a similar age
- Of course, walking is better for the environment than driving!
- Exercise reduces stress and lets off steam before classes
- Takes children slightly out of their comfort zone and away from technology
- Teaches time management and navigational skills
- Educates children on the world
But how we do translate these benefits into something that kids can relate to and understand?
It’s easy for us to recognise the benefits of getting kids walking – whether they are our students, neighbours or children – but try telling that to them! For children, it might simply seem like a chore.
Why not try the following fun ideas to motivate kids to make the walk to school instead?
Incentivise with a sense of adventure
Do your younger kids enjoy going on treasure hunts, playing adventure-based games and revel in a good challenge?
Well, good – use that to your advantage!
When you break it to the kids that October is Walk to School Month, try suggesting this proposition in their terms.
It’s not just using your legs to get from home to school and back – it’s an adventure!
Print a fun, annotated map with various safe routes that you’ve checked out yourself personally, including attractions, obstacles and so on.
These activities will distract children from worrying about their tired legs or asking for a shoulder ride, making it a much more enjoyable and welcome experience for everyone involved!
Provide a financial allowance
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, encouraging your children to walk to school has so many benefits.
It might be worthwhile simply telling your older children that if they walk to school, they can have a little money to spend on a treat for themselves.
This will reinforce money management skills and may be a good opportunity to encourage saving up for a bigger item. You could trial this once a week to begin with and adjust accordingly from there.
Help children make new friends
Speak to any other parents that you know – are they also invested in International Walk to School Month? Why not ask if their child would like to walk with you and your child?
A solitary walk to school, or just walking with one parent, isn’t as fun as sharing the experience with a friend!
Not all of a child’s friends will be able to walk to school together, dependent on where they live, so this creates a great opportunity for children to make new friends and get to know their neighbours.
Give the child a favour
The oldest trick in the book – a reward.
This ploy is commonly used but very effective; simply let your children know that if they walk to and from school every weekday throughout October, you will (for example):
- Do the dishes once a week when it’s usually their turn
- Take them to a place, event or activity that they enjoy more often than you usually would
- Allow them to do/have something they’ve been asking about for a long time
Simply make them aware of the fun in walking
Get back to basics and contemplate how you would think about something if you were that age again. Jump in the puddles too and release your inner child!
It might pay to remind the child that sitting in a car – or a train or bus for that matter – offers less opportunity to create fun.
Don’t forget that although International Walk to School Month is a great motivator to get the kids outside, doing exercise and socialising with friends, what’s most important is your child’s safety.
If you are walking with them, use this opportunity to teach the basics about road safety and directions.
Talk about issues like littering, avoiding unfamiliar dogs and other animals, getting lost, what to do in an emergency and which areas to avoid. Remember to put some serious time aside for a chat about stranger danger and who to trust when out and about.
If you need a little inspiration, here are some helpful resources:
- Road Safety Awareness Guide from Creative Play UK
- Think! Road Safety Education for Kids
- Junior Citizen
So some of these ideas are cheating a little, but it’s all about using this month to forge the habit. You can gradually ease up on the incentives you use over time as the healthy habit will become part of your routine.
Be safe, have fun and happy walking
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Jordan mainly writes about business and mental health, having learnt to adapt to the business environment after graduating in Marketing Management. On the weekend you’ll find Jordan visiting friends that he wished lived closer and attempting to keep active.