- Start small - pick a day, or two when you can walk to or from school together
- Plan for the small adjustments you will need to make in your family routine.
- Set attainable goals and decide together as a family that you’ll do it! You could even calculate the distance on Google Maps and aim to walk or ride the equivalent of the distance from Canberra to the coast (150km) or Mount Kosciuszko (200km)!
- Can you team up with other families? Maybe organise some ‘walk-pooling’ and take turns hosting the morning drop-off and walking the kids to school.
- Spend a bit of time as a family walking different routes and settle on the safest (use the underpass, even if it is a detour), most pleasant and avoids difficulties like scary dogs! This Family Challenge is fun and can help you with planning.
- Practice crossing roads safely and teach kids pedestrian safety, like to be aware of cars exiting driveways
- Time the walk so you know when to leave home… and add an extra 5-10 minutes for forgotten hats, and so that there is time to enjoy the walk, get distracted, and not have to urge ‘hurry up!’.
- If you don’t have time for the entire route part-way is OK! Find a good spot to park a few blocks from the school and walk from there – the kids will still get the benefits of walking!
- Your school may be part of the Walk and Ride to School program, which has a map for each school (choose 'Ride or Walk to school' from the drop down menu) showing good walking routes and part-way drop-off points.
- Keep the backpack light. Having a small back pack can help (kids only should carry 10-15% of body weight). Try lightweight food containers and a water bottle that is only part full (can refill at school).
- Make sure the backpack fits well, sits against the back, is worn on both shoulders and anything heavy is close to the body.
- Often it is no slower to walk than get everyone into and out of the car – time it and see!
- It’s cold in Canberra for a long time and mornings are especially so. The walk will warm you up and the frost can be SO much fun but you’ll need a good coat and beanie! Coats are easy to forget so remember to label it with your child's name!
- A good umbrella (great birthday present!) and a layer of waterproof spray on their shoes will mean the kids will love walking in the rain without you having to worry about them being wet all day. A fun pair of gumboots for the walk with school shoes in the backpack is another good option. Parents often find they get less wet walking with the right gear than getting into and out of the car.
Making it fun (overcoming the grumbling)
- Afternoons can especially grumpy but taking a healthy snack or really cool drink can help!
- Take a look around (no devices!). Collect interesting leaves or rocks, notice the flowers, animals, people and places along the way.
- Play games like eye spy, or ham it up - walk like an animal, miss the cracks, sing a silly walking song (anything with a marching beat is irresistible for small feet!). How good are your guessing skills? Guess the number of steps to school, test it out and count them!
- Arrange to meet friends - this is extra ‘chat time’ before school!
- Asking the kids specific questions about their day is a great way to learn more about their friends and school.
- Take part in National Walk Safely to School Day, Friday May 17. There are resources for participating schools at www.walk.com.au/wstsd. The Physical Activity Foundation also run a National Ride2School Day in March and a Winter Walk to School Week in August.