The debate about what age a child should be given more responsibility has been going on forever. Many argue that a parent knows their child best and can most accurately assess when they're ready to be more independent. Others suggest age limits should be enforced for activities like being left home alone or riding a bus alone.
Many parents often struggle when deciding the best time to let their kids do certain activities independently, like walking to school alone. Walking to school provides numerous benefits for a parent and child. It provides some daily exercise and it alleviates those pesky school parking lot issues. But what age is right for a child to walk to school without a parent present?
Very Well Parent reports that while some parents let their kids as young as the second and third grade walk to school alone, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that kids should be between the ages of 9 and 11 before they're left to navigate the streets to school unsupervised. It's around the fifth grade that they suggest kids are more able to handle emergencies or any sort of situation that may present itself on their walk to school.
The AAP also provides some guidelines for parents to better help prepare their kids for that walk to school without them as well. They suggest ensuring the child's route to school has monitored cross walks with crossing guards to ensure safe street crossing. They also suggest having friends in the area available to walk with each other. There's safety in numbers and also walking with friends gives children more confidence and a sense of security.
The AAP also suggests that parents know their children and their abilities. If you don't think your child can handle walking to school alone, or know how to behave around traffic, perhaps ask an adult or older child to walk with them. Another suggestion is to walk with the child for a week or so before allowing them to walk on their own. That way the parent can ensure they know the route and how to safely cross any streets before they're expected to make the journey to school on their own.
We've seen in the past concerned onlookers calling authorities on unaccompanied children travelling on public buses and walking unattended to school. Only a parent truly knows their child's capabilities and can make the call as to whether they are able to confidently and safely walk or ride their bikes to school unsupervised.