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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Getting to and from school safely

Amanda Poll, Health Promotion Facilitator - Back to school - everything in September is focused on youth getting back into the classroom and back into routine, but it is important that we ensure that kids remain safe as they transition from summer holidays to the classroom.

Many topics regarding back to school safety can be found at www.albertahealthservices.ca; everything from stress management for youth, bullying, transitioning from middle school to high school, and teen risk taking to school nutrition, immunizations, and school bus safety.

Many youth in our community take the bus to and from school, but as children get older and more independent, they will likely start traveling to school on their own; but how old is old enough to walk or bike to school without supervision? 

The Alberta Health Services website explains that current Page Content research shows that children who walk or bike to school are better prepared for learning and have improved mental and physical health. Proper supervision, safe environments, hazard awareness, and participating in age-appropriate activities all help reduce the risk of injury to children when they are using active transportation to get to and from school.

 Here are some answers to a couple of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on this topic:
  • How old does my child need to be to walk to school on her own?
  • Safety research shows young children do not have the mental skills they need to cross the road safely. Children less than 9 years old should have an adult or older responsible child walk to school with them. Parents should make sure their children can demonstrate how to cross the road safely before allowing them to walk to or from school or play unsupervised in their neighborhood.
  • How old does my child need to be to bike to school on his own? 

Complex skills like balancing the bike, watching for traffic, and paying attention to road signs take training, practice, and time to develop. Children are not ready to cycle alone on the road until they understand road safety rules, know how to signal, and know how to avoid major risks. Children less than 10 years old should only ride to school with supervision and stay on bike paths or sidewalks. Parents should make sure children can demonstrate bike and road safety skills before allowing them to bike to school on their own.

Keeping active, especially as the seasons begin to change and we spend more time in-doors and in classrooms is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, using active transportation to get to and from school is an excellent way to keep moving. Just remember, children need to have the proper skills to remain safe before venturing out on their own.

For more information, visit www.albertahealthservices.ca or www.myhealth.alberta.ca.

Amanda Poll is a Health Promotion Facilitator at Medicine Hat Community Health Services. Amanda can be reached by email at amanda.poll@ahs.ca.

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