Walking To School in Winter
By Jennifer Cummings, M Ed.
Walking to School? Stay Warm and Safe This Winter!
Every day millions of children walk to school in cities and suburbs all around America. When it’s nice out, walking is fantastic, but in those cold winter months? Yikes! Mounds of snow, layers of ice, and whipping winds all conspire to freeze kids into snow people before they even get to school!
In addition to the cold, the walking conditions can make it downright dangerous for students who are getting to and from school each day. While some parents opt to drive their kids in the winter months, for many people cars or public transportation just isn’t an option. If you still need your kids to walk their way to class each day, here are a few tips to keep them safe and warm!
First, having the proper clothing is essential to keep kids warm on their walk to school. Even though most kids hate wearing bulky jackets, coats are a must for walkers. Gloves, hats, boots and scarves are also important tools for the walker, protecting vulnerable ears and fingers from the cold. Having a hard time getting your student to keep their coat on after they leave the house? Make a game out of it by asking your child to text you three pictures of themselves (wearing their coat) along their route each day. Each day they remember to send the three pictures, they earn a point for each picture sent. When they earn 15 points (or whatever you decide), they earn a prize. This can help you 1.) get your child to keep their jacket on, and 2.) keep track of where they are along their path! It’s a win-win situation!
Next, walk the route your child will take to school so you can discuss exactly where they should walk and how to cross roads safely if needed. If it has snowed a lot in recent days, take a walk or a ride by the route to make sure the sidewalks are cleaned for pedestrians. In most cities individuals and businesses are responsible for cleaning the walks in front of their home or office, so your kids should have a clear place to walk. Someone not cleaning up after the latest storm? Contact the business involved directly or call your local municipal offices to find out how to fix the situation.
For safety sake, make sure that your child has some reflective material on their backpack or coat. Winter days are short and whether your child goes to school early in the morning or stays after school for help, there may be times they are walking home at dusk. By having reflective material on their outerwear it is more likely that drivers will see them as they walk in the dusky light, keeping everyone safer. Some boots even have light up soles that are safer and popular, especially with younger children.
Finally, have your child travel with a buddy or group whenever possible. Regardless of age, trouble can happen anywhere along a walking route, especially in the winter. By traveling together, kids stay safer and can report quickly if there’s trouble. If a child wanders off in the winter, the cold weather and earlier nightfall can be dangerous if not reported quickly.
Regardless of whether your child is in elementary school or high school, walking to school in the winter poses some challenges. But with careful planning and some creativity, you can manage the challenges that cold weather brings, and make your student’s “commute’ time as safe as possible this winter!