Tips for Walking to School & Walk to School Challenge

by - Monday, September 18, 2017

While it's no secret that physical exercise is good for your body, research shows that kids who walk or bike to school do better in school. The why is still being studied, but the evidence from this large sample study (20,000 children aged 5-19) is overwhelming: "kids who cycled or walked to school, rather than traveling by car or public transportation, performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, and that the effects lasted for up to four hours after they got to school." (source)

How can we make walking to school a habit and reap the benefits? In short, dress for the weather, keep pack weight down, learn how to cross the street safely, and make it fun! Read on for details.

If you need some motivation to walk to school, check out my #WalkToSchool2day Challenge / Giveaway below. You could win a $100 gift card from Sport Chek! 

This post is sponsored by Sport Chek.

Tips for Walking to School

1. Dress for the weather.  
  • School clothes: Comfortable clothes that move with you are best. Choose tees in technical fabrics which wick moisture and prevent overheating. For bottoms, we like leggings/jeggings or loose fitting pants that allow our kids to play outside at recess and sit cross legged on the floor at reading time. 
  • Outerwear: Carry a windproof/waterproof layer year round. In cooler weather, a fleece midlayer adds warmth without too much bulk. We love the Diadora Hug Me Hoodie's super soft, thick fleece for every day wear. In winter, wear base layers under clothes, snow pants & jacket, mittens, and a hat. See my story on Keeping Kids Warm in Winter for more information.
  • Safety tip: Brightly colored outer wear ensures kids are more visible to drivers. Reflectors on backpacks and jackets are helpful as the days get shorter. 
On Miya (left): Firefly Bedard Flannel Shirt, Adidas Tee (Climalite cotton/poly blend),
Gravity Girls' Skinny Jeans, Adidas FortaRun EL K Runners
On Emi (right): Diadora Hug Me Full Zip Hoodie, Under Armour heatgear Tee,
Gravity Girl's Jeggings, Nike Girls' Star Runner Preschool Shoes
All items from Sport Chek.
2. Wear appropriate footwear. Look for lightweight, trim fitting shoes/boots with good traction. Footwear that is clunky or too big poses a tripping hazard. Technical socks wick moisture and prevent blisters.
  • Fair weather: Lightweight running shoes are best. Runners offer superior traction and support compared to sneakers. We learned the hard way when my daughter, in smooth soled sneakers, slipped and concussed herself at the playground last year. Get velcro / quick lace shoes until your child can tie laces on her own.
  • Rainy days: While some days will call for rubber boots, it is hard to walk fast in them (and it's easy to trip and fall), so allow extra time, or have your child wear waterproof hiking boots instead. 
  • Cold weather: Look for winter boots with aggressive lugs and adjustable straps/laces. Bulky boots without straps (e.g. Bogs) will slow them down or fall off in deep snow.
Cool school shoes from Sport Chek. Aren't they the cutest?!
Shown here: Adidas FortaRun EL K Runners at left; Nike Girls' Star Runner Preschool Shoes at right.
3. Keep backpack weight to a minimum! Kids should carry no more than 10-15% of their body weight to prevent injury to their developing spines. 
  • Little kids should have little backpacks. The North Face Mini Berkeley 19L pack from Sport Chek is a good option for preschool and kindergarten.
  • As kids start bringing home more stuff from school, they'll need bigger packs. Choose a lightweight backpack with padded shoulder straps for comfort. The Under Armour Girls' Favorite Backpack from Sport Chek is a great waterproof pack that is 29L. We also like the Adidas Pace and Dakine Prom packs shown below.
  • Fill a small water bottle half full; it can be refilled at school.
  • Choose lightweight, reuseable food containers for lunch and snacks.
We had to get bigger packs this year (to hold rain gear / snow pants) and are loving the
27 L adidas Pace Backpack (left) & 25 L Dakine Prom Backpack (right) from Sport Chek.
4. Walk with friends. Friends = Fun! Plus, your children will have walking buddies when they're old enough to walk to school without you (10 & up). 
  • Don't have friends that walk to school? Invite friends/neighbors to join you, or make new friends "on the trail"!
4. Leave early to reduce stress and allow extra time to play and explore nature on the way. My youngest used to cry on the way to school because she got stressed when we rushed. Once we started leaving 10 minutes earlier, she really enjoyed the walk. Last week we found a birds' nest on the way to school!
  • I Spy, impromptu scavenger hunts (e.g. Can you find a nest, pine cone, and squirrel on our walk to school?), and word games are always fun!
  • For more fun ideas, check out my story: The Path to Happy Hikers.
5. Set attainable goals. Start walking to school once a week (when the weather is best) and work towards walking daily, if possible. Celebrate your success! 
  • Does your work schedule conflict with the kids' school schedule? Implement a "walking school bus" where you and another parent, or roster of parents, take turns walking the kids to school. This way, your kids can walk to school at least twice a week. See  www.walkingschoolbus.org/  for more information.
6. Let the kids choose the route. Give them a challenge - Choose the route with the least road crossings. Create a route that goes by 3 schoolmates' homes. Include as many playgrounds as you can. These challenges will help your kids tune in to landmarks in your community (avoid getting lost, ID safe houses to go to in case of emergency) and choose safe ways to get to school (reduced number of road crossings).
  • A few rules: You can only cross at corners or designated crosswalks. The route must be on sidewalks or pathways. No shortcuts through alleys. Avoid abandoned lots and buildings.
  • Drawing a map will reinforce the route so kids remember where to go when you're not there. 
Fun times "on the trail" as my friend says. ;)
7. Practice Crossing the Street Safely. Parents must model this at all times!
  • Be aware of your surroundings; do not look at your phone, iPod or gaming device.
  • Encourage kids to cross at 4-way stops or designated crosswalks.
  • Get them to look left, right, then left again before crossing. 
  • Check to ensure all vehicles have come to a complete stop before crossing the road.
  • It's also important to listen as speeding cars can seemingly appear out of nowhere.
  • Young children should hold an adult's hand. 
8. Be aware of your surroundings. Make it a rule not to text, play video games, or listen to music while walking to school. 

Disclosure: SportChek generously sponsored this post but all words and opinions are my own.


#WalkToSchool2day Challenge and Giveaway

Sport Chek and Play Outside Guide would love to see more kids walking to school! Here's your chance to enter to win a $100 Sport Chek Gift Card! Complete the Rafflecopter form below (Canadian residents only). For FIVE extra entries, post a photo of your kids walking (or biking) to school on Twitter or Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtag #WalkToSchool2day so I can see your entry!

Rules: Must be 18 or older and a resident of Canada. Contest closes Sept 29, 2017 11:59 pm MST. You must have a public Twitter or Instagram account so I can see your photo entries. Winner will be chosen at random via the Rafflecopter app.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tips for walking to school and sport chek giveaway
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65 comments

  1. Going to start walking home next week. Hoping to maybe incorporate a bike ride home as an option too. We are 1.5 kms from the school so hoping the boys can get used to hiking it as the get older. Thanks for all the great tips!

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    1. Good luck!! :) It takes patience in the beginning, but once it becomes a habit, it's really fun!

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  2. We love walking to preschool to get some fresh air, get some wiggles out, talk & connect❤️

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  3. walking is a great way to clear the mind, release any nervousness and get some well needed exercise before school or work.

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    1. Agreed! I always feel better after a brisk morning walk!

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  4. We walk to and from school every day (we're lucky to live close). I love that even on bad weather days when the kids have to stay indoors for recess and lunch, they've already got a little fresh air... and will get some more on the way home!

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    1. That's fantastic! Are they kept indoors often? Our school has a -19 with windchill or lightning policy.

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  5. Walking to school is healthy for both the body & mind. It releases endorphins & gives a feeling of accomplishment before the school day begins! Breathing that morning air & observing the seasonal changes is peaceful & calming.

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    1. It's the best way to start the day!! And the autumn leaves are amazing right now!

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  6. Does it have to be walking or can they be biking?

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  7. Replies
    1. Me too!! Feels good to get moving first thing in the morning!

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  8. We have only had the privlidge of being able to walk to school for the last year and a half. I treasure our morning walks as my girls and I hold hands and have great conversations. The fresh air and exercise wakes us all up and is a great start to the day. The afternoons are busy, often friends walk with us and the girls will run, find bugs, pick flowers, and jump in every snow pile they pass! We quickly learned that having the right clothing and shoes for the journey is necessary for everyone to have an enjoyable time!!

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    1. Sounds like you are making the most of it and are well prepared! :) That's so nice friends join you for the walk too!

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  9. We homeschool so it's a little different for us. We get out each morning though for an hour walk/bike ride/playground trip. I love seeing my kids happy and excited to see new things that they come across.

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    1. That's fantastic! Do you find it helps them focus for the rest of the day?

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  10. Though we are close to our school, due to my work schedule we can't always walk to school. However, I do take advantage of those days when we can walk. I like getting the time with my daughters (10 minutes) just to talk while we walk to /from school.

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  11. We love walking to school on cool crisp mornings the fresh air clears your mind and its great exercise, we also love exploring on our way! Its a 10 min walk to school for my kids so we dont get to do it every morning but when the weather is nice we always take advantage of it!

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    1. That's great to hear!!! We aim for every day, but sometimes the kids are too slow in the morning. We'll get there!

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  12. I miss walking to school! We play soccer while we wait for the bus instead these days.

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    1. That sounds like fun!!! Hey taking the bus is good too - better for the environment (and you still have to walk to the bus stop, right?).

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  13. #walktoschool2day fresh air and time to chat with friends! :)

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    1. YES!! The fresh air is almost as good as coffee! ;)

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  14. Love all the tips! I love walking to school because it gives us a chance to get outside and enjoy a bit of nature before being stuck inside a class room!

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  15. It's a good time for chit chat I find...bonding.

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  16. I like getting exercise and spending time with the kids when we walk to school!

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  17. We love walking to school every day. It allows us time to talk before school, and to catch up after school. And really, we have no excuse not to walk because we only have one road to cross, and it's a 5 minute walk.

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  18. I love the little bit of time together with my kids

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  19. I love the fresh air how it wakes me up!

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  20. I love walking to school because it gives us some exercise first thing in the morning, and again in the afternoon!

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  21. I like that it gives us some calm time before and after school to talk without distractions.

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  22. I love getting fresh air and exercise

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  23. I love the talks we have, the questions and answers about nature, what we see on the way, anything!

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  24. getting in some exercise before having to sit all day long

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  25. To far for me to walk with the kids to school, but would like the together time.

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  26. I love walking to school to get some fresh air

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  27. As a grandma I only do the pick up but I love that time with the Grandkids as they tell me all about their day and we stop and look at different things along the trail

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  28. It seems like when my daughter gets walking with me her brain and mouth go into over time. We can go for a 2hr. walk and she will talk almost the whole time. It is wonderful.

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  29. Walking to school is great for getting fresh air and a bit of exercise in.

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  30. I like getting some fresh air and the exercise

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  31. I like getting fresh air and exercise, and we normally run into some neighbours so a chance to connect as well.

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  32. I like that walking to school because it wakes us both up. No one in our family enjoys mornings. Nothing like the crisp cool air of the morning to wake us up.

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  33. I like seeing our neighbours/friends and familiar faces on our way to school.

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  34. It is great exercise and a chance to chat with friends. I grew up walking to school except for the one year I had to take the bus.

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  35. I like that we get exercise and learn to brave the elements!

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  36. I love talking to my boys while walking them to school. I also love the exercise and the fact that I don't have to fight the line of cars dropping off their kids.

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  37. I love the time spent with my kids walking to school.

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  38. Love getting time to get some fresh air and to get some exercise (Judy Cowan)

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  39. My kids love walking to school because they get to walk with their friends and it's loads of fun

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  40. I love the chatting along the way to school, good time to catchup on things

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  41. I never lived close enough to school to walk. But if I did, I would enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

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  42. I love walking to school because we are starting off the day with some fresh air and physical activity. It also gives us time to chat ... and for me to nag about safety and other reminders!

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  43. I love everything about walking my oldest to school! She loves it (because she loves school..in SK) and my youngest grabs her little back pack and walks to school with us. its a great feeling to see my girls all excited to go to school and see her friends and teachers

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  44. I like that it gets my kids to exercise and be energize as they start to learn in school.

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  45. I like the exercise and you may meet friends along the way.

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  46. I always walk, have walked for years back and forth (to work but its right next door to the hs and elementary) I walk 22km a day according to my fitbit zip...I go thru a lot of batteries lol

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  47. We live only 2 blocks from school. It is quick and easy. I love that we see all our friends walking to school too!

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  48. I like the exercise and the fresh air.

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  49. I like that it wakes us up, which I feel like helps the kids be more alert in class!

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