THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Do you let your kids walk to school?

Here in Paris not many families own a car, so driving our kids to our local school is not really an option, especially as the traffic is so very bad. We mostly walk, and kids start walking on their own to school from about 8 or 9. My eldest daughter Coco started at 8 as we were only living a 5-minute walk from school. I would follow a couple of minutes later as I was still dropping off her little sister, but that need for independence was very important to her and something I was very happy to encourage. (BTW it was very easy to retrace her steps as she would leave in her wake a steady flow of items, from one glove to a second glove, to a scarf and finally a pencil case that must have fallen out of her bag). As Coco is now 11 and in secondary school she is taking the metro on her own, changing stops and galavanting around Paris. She sometimes gets lost, but she normally finds her way home.

We now have a 15-minute walk to school and my now 9-year-old is embarking on the journey on her own and meeting up with a friend on the way. I love the fact that it is actually me who feels like I am missing out as I would normally go and meet up with my friends in a café after we had all dropped our kids off at school!

Have you seen the documentary On The Way To School yet? It is amazing; it really puts our little 15-minute stroll into perspective.

I’m interested how it works in other cities. Do you let your kids walk to school on their own?

Emilie

PS. The photo above was taken on the first day back to school, last Monday. That day I felt like I deserved a coffee with my friends and would accompany my daughter whether she liked it or not. I think she did not mind too much. ; )


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Comments (24)

Laura
September 14, 2017

This is such an important topic in our house. My daughter wanted to walk to school from first grade on, but she didn’t want to walk alone and there was no friend to meet up nearby.

I had to bring my son to kindergarten by car (since it was to far away to walk), so I usually just dropped her off at the school on our way.

I felt so bad about it every day, because she also needed the independence so much and it was not working out for her.

She switched schools for third grade this year. Now she can walk with her friend. Today was the only the fourth day but I can already she how happy she is about this tiny bit of independence.

Next week when my son starts school, we also have to drop him of since I don’t want him to walk on his own already. But we will also follow a few minutes later so she can have this for herself.

Love the picture from your school run <3

Laura


Sandra
September 14, 2017

We live in Switzerland. In Zurich. Here it is normal for the children to walk to school. It is even a recommendation of the government, the schools and also the police!

The children unsually learn to walk alone or in groups (without adults) in the kindergarten. Normally, the children are accompanied for 4 to 5 weeks and then walk alone. First it’s frightening so see your 4 year old daughter or son to walk all alone. But they really enjoy it so much. They are so proud and happy.

My eldest daughter is 6 (1st class) and has a rather long way to school with about 1.5 km (1 mile). It takes her and her friends about 20 – 25 minutes. Most children meet in arranged places and then go to kindergarten or school in groups. Of course, as a mother I am sometimes nervous and worried if they don’t get home on time. But for my children, the way to school is an opportunity to take responsibility. They exchange ideas with their friends and discover many things – without the adults.

The police regularly come to school and inform the children about road safety and other dangers on their way to school. And of course it is mainly the parents’ responsibility to make their children aware of all dangers – without frightening them.


Liliana
September 14, 2017

Wow! You are definitely courageous. I am too much of a “maman poule” and I hesitate. We live in Switzerland and it is the norm here to have children walk to school unaccompanied as of 2nd year of kindergarten (usually children are around 5/6 years old). I do let my oldest daughter (9 years old) walk to her flute lessons (5 minutes away). however tell her to always take the same path so that if she is not home I can follow that path and find her. I was getting ready to let her have more independance, but since the dissappearence of Maëlys in France, I really hesistate. This has touched me particularly as my daughter is 9 years old as well.


Laura
September 15, 2017

Liliana, I can feel with you so much! My daughter is also 9 years old. We let her walk with her friends, but never ever (!) alone. I trust her with traffic issues, but I am so afraid of ‘disappearance’. Also I think it is not healthy for a child around this age to walk alone, since there are lots of situations where they don’t know how to react. When they are with other children it is easier to learn to be independent, since they can stick together when a new situation comes up.


Christina
September 14, 2017

Love this post, Emilie. My first child is only 3 so not quite ready to walk on her own to school (!) but I have to say living in London I’m not sure I will ever be comfortable with my children doing the school run on their own. Perhaps my views will change as they mature 😉


Emilie
September 14, 2017

It’s funny as I think it does change. I reckon when I had a 3 year old I never imagined them walking around town on their own. And now, pff – off they go!


Alison Holland, Founder, Brightkidz
September 14, 2017

Love this blog. Encouraging kids to walk to school is so important and learning to walk there on their own is great for their independence. For parents who feel they have to drive there are lots of schemes to help you get over the barriers to walking – park and stride, walking bus etc. Brightkidz social enterprise website has lots more info. Happy walking everyone!


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Kate
September 14, 2017

We live in Zurich and children here start walking to school on their own when they begin kindergarten at age 4. It’s amazing to see the tiny little four year olds walking to school. They develop a lot of independence here by walking to and from school and activities from such an early age. I have talked with some of the retired folks I play tennis with and they say that walking to and from school were some of their favorite memories of childhood. I think it’s absolutely amazing and a fantastic benefit of life in Switzerland.


Judith
September 14, 2017

Great to read, topic in our house now too :-). Any tips on where I can find the documentary (not on netflix any more), trailer looks great….must see movie. Ciao from Holland


Carolina
September 14, 2017

I live in DC, which has a high crime rate. One rarely sees anyone who is younger than a teenager on their own and there is a strong car culture. I used towalk my 5 year old to school (10 minute walk) but now that he has moved to the French international school out in the suburbs he has a very long school bus commute. Alas I miss those walks. If I left a 5 year old walk to school I might get arrested for abandoning a child or negligence–this has happened to parents in Maryland. I envy the Swiss!


Helen in Amsterdam
September 14, 2017

We are lucky enough to live on the same street as our school, so it was pretty easy to give the freedom to walk to school early. Edie thought it was the best thing ever. Though do usually walk together each day, we just let Owen walk by himself this week.
The idea of kids going alone (by bike!) across town to high school fills me with fear, but knowing that this is expected of all kids at 12 (or 11, in our case) in Amsterdam has really helped us to set the boundaries for giving freedom in general. Knowing there is this deadline, and that you want to build up slowly, means the clock starts ticking from a pretty early age.


Liz
September 14, 2017

Another view from DC. The crime rate here has fallen significantly and I live in a very urban, but quite safe, neighborhood. My teenagers started taking the metro to school at 12, with their pals, and I noticed that parents of boys were quite casual about it but parents of girls had lots of concerns. My 8 year old really wants to walk to her school and I would let her if she went with a friend but no other parents will allow it yet. We are both looking forward to middle school so she can go via Metro and gain some independence!


Carmen
September 14, 2017

We live in the outskirts of Madrid. My three (now aged 14, 12 and 10) have been returning home on their own for the last school year, either walking or by bus. Probably it’s a bit different here: it is a 10/15-minute ride by car and a 40 minute walk. It is a quiet area but I felt I could not put the burden of looking after his siblings on my 12-year old so we started later. What we have been doing is letting them do the final 5-minute walk in the mornings for the last two or three years. I have always envied this sensation of community taking care of its children that seems to exist in other European cities. If you see young children on their own here, it is probably out of necessity and not of choice of their parents. Nice topic!


Phillipa
September 14, 2017

I remember I walked by myself to school in my last year of primary school and then got the tube to secondary school. It really feels like an issue now and, like many other parents I know, id like my kids to have this freedom but actually don’t feel where we live is safe enough. I find it interesting watching which kids are travelling to my daughter’s school by themselves, I think it is a cultural thing too, there are some v young kids walking to school on their own so I’m not sure this fear of strangers and danger is affecting everyone!!


Steph
September 14, 2017

It sounds very ideal, but I just can’t imagine doing that here in the US where I live. We live in a very walkable, quaint neighborhood, but I think with everything we see on the news about children being taken makes it seem like too much of a possible risk that just isn’t worth taking.
I do have the luxury of. Wing able to have the time to walk them the few blocks to school and we often hang out at the playground with others after school pick up which is nice.


Steph
September 14, 2017

It sounds very ideal, but I just can’t imagine doing that here in the US where I live. We live in a very walkable, quaint neighborhood, but I think with everything we see on the news about children being taken makes it seem like too much of a possible risk that just isn’t worth taking.
I do have the luxury of being able to have the time to walk them the few blocks to school and we often hang out at the playground with others after school pick up which is nice.


Kathryn
September 14, 2017

We live in London and in my particular area (SWlondon) children go to school by themselves from around 10 – the last year of primary. Certainly by 11, the first year of secondary school, its public transport and/or walking as the norm. I work in central London and you see children navigating the tubes by themselves, I sometimes feel sorry for them loaded down with all their bags and kit! My son is 9 and very eager to walk to school and take the tube by himself, a good thing as depending on what secondary school he gets into it will be a 40 m or hour journey! He already walks to our local corner shop by himself or with his younger sister who is 7.


Sigi
September 14, 2017

We live with our two kids (9 and 6) in central Munich. When my children started Primary School at the age of 6 it was expected that they walk to school by themselves. The school is only 5 minutes away. I remember the strange feeling of saying goodbye at home and letting them go. I worried at first but I got used to their independence. It’s so cute to see all those little people with their huge schoolbags filling the streets in the early mornings, walking to school with their friends and waving at each other along the way. There are Lollypop Ladies who help them at difficult crossings.
My son is 9 and he just started at a new school which is 35 minutes away. He takes the metro and changes to the tram. My partner and I travelled with him to school a few times to make sure he knows where to go and where to find help when he needs it. It’s all very exciting and a very big step for him and for us as parents.
Of course I am afraid that something could happen to our children but I see how confident they get with every step they take without adult supervision.
Thank you for the link to the “On the way to school” documentary. I’m eager to watch it.


Courtney in Australia
September 14, 2017

When we lived in London, none of our kids walked to school. We even had a bus stop directly across from our house and the bus went directly to the school, and even then we didn’t feel comfortable sending our kids off to school on their own. (At the time, our eldest was 10.)
Where we live now, our kids all walk to school. We live in a cute and super safe neighbourhood, and there are so many other kids who live on our street and also walk to school. Our eldest, 12, even walks to the skate park after school and walks home from there on his own. Our rule is that he has to be home before dark!
Not only does it make our mornings so much more relaxed (no car journeys, no traffic, no rushing around trying to clean the kitchen before taking the kids to school!), but I think it gives the kids a sense of independence and freedom. They really enjoy walking to school and meeting up with their classmates along the way. We all start our day off on a happy note!


Rivky Breuer
September 15, 2017

I live right outside NYC on Long Island, it’s a nice mix of suburbia and city convenience and we are somewhat of a beach town. My kids all take school busses to school. What we parents struggle with is what age do we let our kids walk to shops, eateries or friends on their own. I start younger than most parents would feel comfortable with, at about age 9 and I let distance and time progress naturally. Unfortunately here in the U.S. we have to worry about law enforcement accusing us of child endangerment for letting our children be independent.


Gillian
September 15, 2017

We live in a lovely small town in the suburbs of NYC. Our property is immediately adjacent to the school our children will attend through high school. They walk in a pack with neighbor kids to and from school and we can see them from our driveway the entire walk. We start them walking to school in first grade (6) and walking home from school in second grade (7). In the 6th grade (11/12) they are allowed to leave the school at lunch time. Many families use this as an opportunity to allow some budgeting too. Kids get a set amount of money for lunch for the week and if they run out before Friday, they can walk home for lunch or pack a lunch. These little bits of independence are so important in a child’s development.


Marisol Navarro
September 15, 2017

Hi Emilie,

I have heard of the documentary and I have tried to watch it. could you please let me know where you have watched it? I have tried youtube, Netflix and amazon with no luck! Thanks


emiliebabyccino
September 18, 2017

We actually watched it on DVD as my daugther’s school teacher had it. I just checked and it looks like it is available on Amazon. x


marie
September 19, 2017

My daugther just turned 12 and she started secundary school this september. She has now in her new school a 15 min walk. So she usually go alone and very happy. I was a little bit concern at first, but now I am really happy for her, like this morning she was meeting a friend around the corner and were going to talk about the campaign for “délégué de classe”…and she seems really happy with her new routine. My son is 4 and going to another school so we drop him off. But He tried to sneek after school to come back home with a friend…but hopefully nothing happend and he knows really well the rules…but independance starts really early… Your picture is really nice. I hope your older daugther is happy about her new school and routine.


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