Build Community, Movement Mindset, Health and Safety One Step at a Time
Today is Walk to School Day, something most of our grandparents would laugh about. A friend’s grandma, for instance, grew up in North Dakota. She remembers she and her sister would hold onto their little brother’s hands so he wouldn’t get lost in the snow drifts during winter. The girls wore tights and dresses, walking in sub-zero North Dakota temperatures.
Extreme? Definitely. And probably not the safest thing to do. But this was in 1924, and there were no such thing as “snow days.” But the mere act of walking to school (or biking) goes beyond “toughening up” for those snow days. (Probably uphill both ways.)
The freedom to walk to school (or bike) is all about community.
Walking, and biking, to school are ways to promote healthier habits, detect problem spots (traffic and safety) in neighborhoods, and build community. So, instead of just making it once/year, make walking and biking to school a year ‘round commitment.
- Develop a movement mindset. Kids need regular physical activity to grow, strengthen their bones, build strong joints, improve flexibility and mental health. How much is regular physical activity? You’ll be surprised to know that The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children between the ages of 6 – 17.
- Get a common goal. Get the children’s school to start a walk-a-thon during the month of October. Raise funds for better school sports equipment or something activity-centered. What a fun way to keep exercise on the brain!
- Promote safety. Children must wear helmets when riding a bike. Teach them how to use the bike lanes and/or sidewalks when they can. Teach them necessary hand signals and that traffic signals, too, correspond to bike riders. Teach children to look both ways before crossing the street.
- Minimize risk. Criminal Minds ruined parents for life. We see predators at every corner. In an age of over-information, over-reporting, there is a definite gap between our perception of safety and the reality. That said, I’m not recommending you send a five-year-old to walk alone to school. There are ways, though, to walk and ride to school and minimize risk. Start a neighborhood walking club where parents take turns accompanying the younger children to school. Create bicycle trains – where there’s a meeting point and everybody rides their bikes together. Take back your streets … together!
- Make it a community effort. Show your local politicians and city planners the need for lowered speed limits, bike paths, sidewalks, and traffic signals. Go to city council and school board meetings. Start a petition. Make muscle-powered transportation more visible, and viable. Get involved!
The freedom to walk, or ride, to school is a privilege, though it shouldn’t be. We can change the way we view our car-centric society, one step at a time. And by doing so, we’re creating a community of healthier, more active, children.
Get moving. Get biking. Get involved in Walk to School Day. And wear out those shoes!