I think it is great if kids walk to school.
By far the greatest risk is not from predators, it is traffic. So, before you let your kids walk to school alone, make sure they know basic pedestrian skills and, especially, that they know how to cross the road safely. This takes practise, and so I would recommend a long apprenticeship of being walked to school by yourself or others before they are allowed to do it on their own. Even when they know the basic routines of stopping and looking, little brains are not good at estimating the speed and distance of traffic. Get them to tell you when they think it is safe to cross, and you feed back to them whether you agree – of course, only cross when YOU think it is safe.
A good thing I did with each of my kids was to set a little test. They walked to school with me walking a little way behind, and they had to demonstrate that they knew what to do at each crossing, and also that they could walk without dawdling and getting distracted. Make sure they have a Plan B. If the weather is bad, or they have trouble, what could they do? Ensure they know whose place’s they can safely go to, or to go to the school office, or have numbers they can call.
An abductor may say they have been sent by the child’s parents to pick them up, but instruct your child not to get into a car unless they know a password (perhaps the child’s own middle name). Practise scenarios. Also make sure they know your Rules.
- No going anywhere on the way to school or home without permission
- If approached by an adult be polite, but never get in their car or go with them
- If someone tries to grab you or a friend – scream and call for help.
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