At What Age Can Your Child Walk to School Alone?

Two young girls walking to school
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Walking to school can be a great way for kids to get some of the daily exercise they need. But at what age is it appropriate for a child to walk alone to school? At any age, your child needs pedestrian safety skills as well as tactics to avoid stranger danger.

Age for Walking to School

Many kids and their parents may think they can handle walking to and from the school bus stop and even all the way to school by themselves as soon as the second or third grade, but some experts warn this may be too early.

Child safety experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that children between the ages of 9 to 11 years old—between fourth and sixth grades—can safely walk by themselves to school so long as they are capable of showing good judgement.

Skills to Teach Your Child for Walking to School

Parents can begin practicing child safety rules and pedestrian safety rules to get their grade-schooler ready to be more independent and to walk to school by themself. Teach your child to:

  • Pay attention to traffic at all times when crossing the street and put away the cell phone or other electronic devices that contribute to distracted walking.
  • Always cross at the intersection where there are traffic lights; do not cross in the middle of the block.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing; cross while keeping an eye on traffic.
  • Always watch for turning vehicles when crossing the street.
  • Remember that drivers may not see them, even if they can see the driver.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing or a device that will increase their visibility, such as a reflective armband or even a safety vest, depending on their route.
  • Never follow someone who is either a stranger or someone they know but is not a designated "safe" adult. A safe adult is someone who has been previously agreed upon by you and your child to be a caregiver, such as a grandparent or trusted neighbor. If someone tries to convince them to go with them or tries to physically get close, then scream, "Help! This is not my dad!" or "Help! This is not my mom!" and run away. If they grab them, tell them to kick, punch, and hit as hard as they can.
  • If they should somehow get lost even after practicing the route with you a number of times, have them ask a woman—preferably a woman with a child or baby—for help.

The route your child must take to school can also play into the decision as to when it may be safe. A route that has no crossings of busy streets may be safer at a younger age, while ones with busy intersections may require more maturity.

A Word From Verywell

Only parents can really know what their child can handle. If you have a 10-year-old who is cautious and pays attention to their surroundings, they may be ready to go to school alone. But if your child is easily distracted and isn't likely to always remember to look before crossing a street, then you may want to wait. As with other safety and health issues, trust your instincts; you know your child better than anyone.

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