Originally published: September 2023
Back-to-school season is here! As your family settles into a fall routine, keep everyone moving with active travel—human-powered ways of getting from one place to another.
Whether your kids prefer to walk, run, or wheel (with bikes, scooters, skateboards, in-line skates, or wheelchairs), active travel is a great way to get them moving between school and home. It boosts their physical health, builds their independence, and encourages them to spend time outside. Active travel has also been shown to reduce traffic congestion near schools, lowering the risk of traffic-related injury.
Here are some tips to get your child walking and wheeling with confidence.
Plan the route
Help your child plan the route they’ll use to get to school in active ways. Try these ideas:
- Create maps of safe routes between school and home. Using print or online mapping tools, mark places to avoid (like high-speed roads and areas with heavy traffic) and point out features that help keep them safe (like well-lit pathways and marked crosswalks).
- Help your child practice their active journey to school—do trial runs together or with friends. Keep track of how long it takes to travel, building in extra time for activities like locking up bikes.
Get the gear
Talk with your child about equipment they’ll need to stay safe while they’re on the move:
- If they plan to bike, remind them that wearing an approved helmet is the law. Help them take the bike helmet YES test to be sure their helmet fits properly.
- If they plan to scooter, skateboard, or in-line skate, help them learn which helmet they’ll need for which activity.
- Talk together about how to dress for the weather.
Build road safety skills
Help your child learn and practice the rules of the road. For example:
- Teach them to cross the road at marked crosswalks or intersections. Get started with these pedestrian safety tips for parents and children.
- Show them the correct hand signals to use when riding a bike. If you need support, look for a cycling skills program or clinic in your local area.
- Remind them to stay alert and avoid distractions. Set an example by putting away your phone, headphones, and ear buds when you’re on the move.
Grow your active travel network
Connect with other kids and families who use active travel to get between school and home. You’ll likely find that active travel is a great way to get to know each other, build relationships, and have fun!
- Find out if there are active travel groups at school (like walking school buses, bike trains, active travel clubs, or buddy programs). If you can’t find what you’re looking for, talk to your principal or school council about how to get started.
- Take part in active travel events (like International Walk to School Week, Winter Walk Day, or Wheel Week).
- Talk with other families in your school community about ways to make active travel more appealing for everyone. Get involved in community clean-ups, outdoor art projects, and gardening activities. Advocate for bike racks or shelters in public places.
Remember that active travel doesn’t have to involve long distances—even a short walk or roll can get kids moving on the way to school! Try these ideas:
- If you’re driving your child to school, drop them off a few blocks away so they can walk the rest of the route.
- If your child takes a bus to school, ask your principal about starting a ride and stride program, where kids walk around school property when the get off the bus.
- Encourage your child to set an active travel goal. For example, they could try walking to school once a week, or biking once a month. Help them track their progress—it’s fun and motivating!
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