Friday 14 December 2018

Learning life lessons and staying healthy on the walk to school

Independence and exercise are a great way for children to start their school day with a smile

Friday was a big day in our house. We decided to let our 8-year-old walk to school on his own for the first time. He's walked with me and his siblings over the years but this really was the real deal: being let loose without adult supervision.

He's walking with a buddy from the neighbourhood who is also in 3rd class. They meet at the corner of our road and set off on the 15-minute journey together.

I snapped them outside our house; box fresh in their new uniforms, standing proud and eager to embark on their exciting trip.

They join a large number of kids from the neighbourhood who attend the local schools and all walk the same route in the morning. Along the way there's parents at every bend, pushing buggies and accompanying younger kids to school and crèche. It's a safe, busy route to stroll, with a green man for safe crossing at the entrance to the estate.


The silly thing is, I still need to drop my middle son in the same direction, so will drive the same route each day, passing them as they walk.

In an ideal world I would walk too, but, until next year, I still have a Montessori drop in the opposite direction. Like countless parents I hate having to drive such short routes. I feel guilty clogging up the roads on people who have significant distances to travel after drop-off.

In reality the crèche and school are only a kilometre apart, with my house somewhere in the middle. The journey takes several minutes in a car, but trying to walk from home to the crèche to the school in one go would take me the best part of an hour.

In order to make the best of the situation I'm delighted I can finally dispatch my eldest on foot. Walking or cycling anywhere in the morning is a great way to kick-start your body and brain.

Fresh air rouses a young mind far more than a stuffy, sedentary car journey.

As someone who works from home I'm jealous of anyone who gets to enjoy a walk or cycle to work. It's far more relaxing than driving and way better than a crowded commute on a Dart, bus or Luas.

Like many parents, loving exercise comes naturally to me and my husband (who cycles to work) and we aspire to pass this love onto our kids.

It's natural to want the best for your children, but what if you simply don't have those fitness genes, the ones that make a walk seem like a fun activity rather than an awful chore?

Kids mimic their parents, adapting to the lifestyle they're introduced to. Children growing up in a home where exercise isn't promoted are far less likely to indulge off their own bat.

If TV and computers are normalised over fresh air and fitness you can be pretty sure your child isn't going to argue.

If you struggle to get up and exercise why not use your child as an incentive to turn over a new leaf? If walking to school isn't an option why not plan one day a week when you walk to the shops together or take a ball to the park?

Bad habits can be taught just as easily as good ones. Exercise is as important to a child's well-being as a parent's love.

You wouldn't short-change them on the latter, so why does it seem OK to do so on the former?

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