At What Age Can Children Walk to School Independently?

I’m sure you have heard of Kathy Buckworth before, she is an award winning writer, public speaker, spokesperson and television personality.

Yesterday, Kathy spoke on CFRB 1010 Radio on the topic of children walking to school independently. I was also privy to a group discussion on this exact topic which got me thinking about my own children.
What age can children walk to school independently
Recently, I have found myself questioning how much independence or lack of independence I am giving my daughter who is about to turn 9 years old. I think back to when I was 9 and I was walking to school (a 15 minute walk, including a somewhat major intersection) and I was also responsible for walking my sister home from Kindergarten after school. I know that I played outside in the front of our house by myself too.

 

What are your thoughts on what age can children walk to school independently?

 

Just like many things in life, I truly believe that there is no answer that fits everyone! Each child and family is different and has a different set of circumstances. Many factors must be taken into consideration. Parenting expert Alyson Schafer said it best (in my opinion):

Alyson Schafer quote Reproduced and used with permission

Factors to Take into Consideration when deciding what age can children walk to school independently:

  • location
  • size and number of intersections to be crossed
  • maturity of child
  • number of children also walking the same route
  • Will someone be home when the child arrives after school?
  • experience with independance
  • confidence

So the question is, if there isn’t a magic “right age” for when children can walk to school independently, how can we ensure that our children are prepared and how will we know?

I believe that you will know when your child is ready when you see the maturity level in them and they have had experience showing good judgement when they are given independence.

How can you prepare them?

  • Start small.
  • Provide your child with shorter distances to walk independently.
  • Talk to your child about street safety.
  • Causally quiz your child with specific questions like “What would you do if….”

 

How old are your children? Do they walk to school independently?
Where do you stand on this topic?

 

 

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67 Responses to At What Age Can Children Walk to School Independently?

  1. Jennifer says:

    Our school kicks the kids off the bus when they hit grade four, so right now they are able to ride but once they reach grade four they are expected to walk and cross a busy road with no crossing guard by themselves.

  2. Andrea Hunter says:

    Our schools have always been beyond walking distance, and the two older ones had to transition from being bussed/driven door to door till grade 8 to taking the city bus for high school. We made a concious decision to let them do that, although a lot of their peers still get driven door to door. I would have worried about sending them off to university without them being capable to manage public transit!!!

  3. Shari Goss says:

    See I know my oldest could do it on his own, but walking with his brother I feel like they would fight and hurt each other. If I get ahead of them they will whip ice balls at each other’s heads 😛

  4. Tiffany Steadman-Collins says:

    I was recently talking about this. I just don’t know this day and age with so much happening and going on I cant really say a specific age. It depends so much on the child etc and how far, major roads ours is about a 25 minute walk and crossing a major road I am struggling even thinking about it lol

    • Other than everyone being in more of a rush on the roads, what is SO different in this day and age than when we were kids? There were safety concerns then too, but our parents just educated us and sent us on our way, right?

  5. Joann says:

    My kids are 9 and 11, and no they don’t walk independently, mostly because school is too far and they have to cross a major intersection. These are all great points to consider. And Alyson is great! Love her advice!

  6. CKhan says:

    I struggle with similar issues with my kids. Because they range in age from 3 to 9, I have different rules for them in terms of playing outside without adult supervision (only the eldest 2 are allowed out; no going in other kids’ houses or to the ravine, etc). As for the bus, I take them all in the morning to the bus stop (I NEED to see them physically getting on the bus) but I let them walk home from the bus stop at the end of the day. I do worry that my youngest will give trouble to his older brother and sister, but it hasn’t happened. I think they all understand the importance of the independence they’ve been given. It also helps that I watch them from my front window as they walk home. Lol.

    • Watching when they aren’t aware is a “Mom thing” — we all do it! I remember when my daughter first took the bus, I followed that bus in my van and hid behind a bush at the school to see her physically get off of that bus and escorted into the school yard! Thank you for participating in this conversation. I think it is important for all of us to see how other people view topics like this. It helps us to form our own comfort levels and opinions 🙂

  7. Nancy T says:

    Hmmm such an important discussion to have and each family will have their own reason for allowing/not allowing the independence.
    I drive both my girls to school although my younger daughter could take the bus. My older daughter goes to an out of district school and my only option is to drive her. Soon they’ll be together at the out of district school.
    Do I let them play outside without me? – in the locked backyard only! My younger daughter (4) has no fear and has been known to not watch where she’s going and could end out in front of a car. We live on a corner of a very busy intersection.
    For my older daughter (7) there are entirely different circumstances. She’s smart and I have no doubt she could handle the task of walking independently to a friend’s house and be responsible. What she couldn’t handle is if someone were to approach her, she wouldn’t be able to scream no or run or fight back. She has an anxiety disorder that causes her to freeze when in an uncomfortable situation. She can’t even talk to my sisters, brother, BILs or SILs and she’s known them her entire life.

  8. Lynda Cook says:

    back in the older days it was safe to walk, nowadays it’s not to safe. This is a tough question I would have to say it all depends on how mature the child is and the parents choice. In my situation my one daughter I could trust her to go straight to school and back home and not to talk to anyone, but on the otherhand my other daughter nope, nadda, noway, she would goof off and talk to anybody she seen, and the way some people are now I’d be at home chewing my fingernails off till she got home, so all in all I would have to say it all depends on the individual, there really is no set age

  9. dewinner says:

    I don’t have my own that have to walk now a days but do have a niece and nephew who I cherish and the answer for me is when they drive, so never, too many nut jobs out there! I know you have to give them freedom yada, yada, but when I grew up we never even had a murder or rape or child abduction ever! Then it was one and people were devastated and now one a month so my sister works and I could not be sitting on my couch and let them walk, if something happened I would never forgive myself.

  10. kristen visser says:

    my daughter is only 18 months now so it wont be awhile yet until she goes to school but I can tell you I will be walking her at least for the first few years … at least. probably even longer. i know the school is only a 5 min walk but in these days you just never know

  11. Shash says:

    It really depends on the kid and on the walk! 🙂 We live 1.6 klms from the kid’s elementary school but if they cut through the forest, it’s a direct route and they’re there in 8 mins max. When my oldest two were there, they walked when the weather was nice, through the forest. I’d given them a walkie talkie, I guess to make me feel safer… I have not let the younger two do it. They’re far less responsible, they have too many SQUIRREL moments and the likeliness of them reaching the school on time, if at all… plays into why I don’t let them do it.

    I’m a big believer that crime hasn’t increased much since we were kids and walked to school alone, but the amount of ways we hear about the crimes that do happen, has increased 1,000 fold.

    • This is so true – social media, phones etc. has made information a bit too in our faces sometimes, you are absolutely right!

      I LOVE the walkie talk idea – thanks for sharing your thoughts – means a lot to me.

  12. nikki robak says:

    you have to be so careful these days I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to when a good age is to walk by themselves

  13. Tammy B says:

    we were walking to school at a young age. It was a five minute walk and everyone knew everyone.. It is really hard to say what age is good, I guess it would depend on the child. I think I will always want to take my child to and from school.. unless of course she has to take a bus….

  14. loriag says:

    For me the decision in this question is really based on your location. Are you in a city, small town. What type of neighbourhood. These would have to be answered before I could give an answer.

  15. Erika E says:

    I’m not comfortable letting my son walk to school at any age because I worry so much. But I know eventually he’ll want to walk with his friends.

  16. mommakoala says:

    Those days are over, but from what I remember, I met up with my daughter every day. There were so many bullies and she was picked on.
    (Debbie W)

    • This is definitely a topic that I hadn’t considered when writing about walking to school, but you are absolutely correct! Gosh, I was bullied as a child on the way home from school. how could I have forgotten this? Thank you for bringing that up.

  17. Heidi C. says:

    I would be so anxious even if my kids’ school was across the street :). Maybe when my gang hits high school I will let them go independently…

  18. kathy downey says:

    I believe it depends on where you live,i love in a small town(3000) where kids usually all walk together in groups at about age 7/8

  19. Cheryl says:

    I’m very thankful that we live close to my sons school!

  20. Brandee H says:

    My son is only two and so I shouldn’t have an opinion but I cringe everytime I see little kids walking alone. I live in a big city. My neighbours son is five and walks home alone from school. I think that’s way too young. The reality is that times have changed since many of us were in school. I have no idea when I willbe able to let my son walk home from school alone. The thought scares me!!!

    • It’s so hard to know what we will be like as parents when our children are older! Times have changed in many ways….I’m not sure they have changed when it comes to the “scary” stuff, but I do find that cars are in much more of a race now a days…..just as dangerous, if not more, right?

      • Brandee H says:

        Oh yes!! So fast! The other day we were about to cross the street when a taxi sped up and ran through the stop sign!

        • That is definitely one lesson to teach children, in my opinion, to never trust cars! They don’t always obey the rules of the road (stop signs, stop lights, rights of pedestrians). I have tried to teach my children to always make eye contact, if they can, with a driver before crossing the street.

  21. Wanda Tracey says:

    I don’t know if there is a “safe” age anymore in the cities especially for children to be walking alone to school.We live in a small town and there are people set up at the cross walks so t’s pretty safe but still a worry no matter where you live.

  22. Treen Goodwin says:

    I was always an over protective Mom , i was scared to to let my Boys do anything by them selves , my Husband had to talk to me many times and say you are way to protective , they are growing up just let them have a little space , but its so hard , i really don’t know what a Safe age is nowadays , way to many worries and things to fear !

  23. Bev says:

    Interesting post! I would be scared to let my kids walk alone to school nowadays! I think 18 year old would be okay!

  24. Rebecca H. says:

    I have a 5 year old, and I don’t have to think about this for about 5 years or so, but, wow, I am not waiting to do this!!! I am thinking by grade 6? But we will see!

  25. Darlene Schuller says:

    I think a lot depends on the child to be honest. My almost 8 year old has the attention span of a flea, I wouldn’t allow her to walk herself yet and we only live like 8 mins walk away, but … still I don’t think it’s something she could handle. The rest of my children were bussed to school.

  26. Laurie Bolduc-Cadieux says:

    It depends a great deal on the location of the school, the distance, if they have someone to walk with *friend* My daughter is 10 and I let her bike to school last year for the first time with her 2 cousins. They found it a bit much, even a bit nerve wrecking. We are about a kilometer from the school and they have to cross one big street. I personally feel… if the school is within a few blocks maybe at the age of 10. But sadly, schools now a days are forcing children in grade 4 to walk. Things are not as safe as when we were children… just saying…

  27. C Borrill says:

    This is definitely an interesting subject for me as my kids are 6 & 7, and I am not comfortable with them walking to school independently yet. However, in saying that I was walking to school independently when I was 6 years old.

  28. rhod says:

    Maturity level?

  29. kathy downey says:

    In today’s world you can never be to careful as a parent

  30. MrDPrize says:

    i think it depends on the area you live in and how far away the school is and the maturity level of the child

  31. Crystal Parsons says:

    I think 10 is a good age

  32. kathy downey says:

    maturity level of the child and where you life and all parents are different

  33. Kirsten says:

    For walking to school, I would say atleast 10 yrs old and with a friend if possible. I walked to school in grade 1, but we talked together as group. There was atleast 6 or 8 of us and it was about 15 minute walk.

    My kids take the bus. The stop is right outside our house. For my sons, 6 and 8 yrs old, I wait with them in the morning and they are allowed to get off the bus by themselves after school. My daughter’s in j/k and I have to be there to put on and get her off the bus. Next year she will be at the same school as her brothers. I will comtinue to wait with them in the morning. My husband thinks I’m a little overproctive, but I like to spend that little of of time with them before they are off to school.

  34. ElaineB2 says:

    When I was 6 I was taking the public bus and transferring once…but definitely different risks now.

  35. Victoria Ess says:

    I think it depends on a lot of factors like the child’s maturity level, the neighbourhood, the distance to be walked, etc.

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