There is no quick answer to deciding when your child is ready to walk to school alone.
According to Parachute Canada, in order to cross a street independently and safely, children need three important skills that are typically not acquired until between 9 and 11 years of age:
- The ability to determine and use a safe crossing pathway
- The capability to realistically assess a vehicle’s speed
- The cognitive means to judge safe gaps in traffic
Children under 11 have vision and hearing that is not yet fully developed. School-aged children are also developmentally egocentric and see themselves as the center of all things. As a result, they find it hard to understand that a driver would not be aware of them.
Parents can talk with children about pedestrian safety as soon as they start walking with them, and continue to do so at least until the early teenage years.
Discussions and demonstrations addressing safe crossing behaviours, in a variety of situations, will enable children to make more independent – and correct – decisions about road crossings and safe pedestrian travel in general. Guided walking will also help parents to assess their child’s readiness to begin to short journeys on their own and build towards independence.
More information is available in these great resources: