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Scared, Busy or Lazy? What's Your Excuse for Shunning the Walk to School?

Every day, at varying times, all children down pens, pencils and crayons to run or walk their mile. Despite childhood obesity being on the up, none of the children at St Ninians are overweight.

Just after I pulled off my wellies this morning, following a brisk walk to fire up my brain, I learned that only 46% of primary school children walk to school compared to 70% a generation ago.

From my own experience, I know just 20 minutes exertion allows me to settle into tasks faster, feel less agitated and more ready to focus. Children have tons more energy than us sedentary adults - how are we helping them burn off excess energy?

As winter draws ever closer, you'd imagine this is an unlikely time to see those stats change, but October is International Walk to School Month and UK Living Streets is a welcome force behind the campaign.

As the UK's charity for everyday walking, they encourage striding to school throughout the year. But this month is particularly special as primary school children across the country will join forces with others from 40 countries worldwide, to celebrate the benefits of walking to school.

I'm an ex-primary school teacher and mother of three, and the health of my lot is always on my mind. Looking into the stats further I was inspired to read how St Ninians, a school in Stirling, intro-duced the 'daily mile' for all students three years ago.

Every day, at varying times, all children down pens, pencils and crayons to run or walk their mile. Despite childhood obesity being on the up, none of the children at St Ninians are overweight.

And when, according to figures from the Health & Social Care Information Centre, one in 10 chil-dren are obese when they start school at the age of four or five, that's really impressive news!

Today, Stirling University is researching the scientific benefits of the practice to back up the anec-dotal evidence that abounds.

Because, let's be honest, we all know that walking is good for you. But do we know just how good it really is?

  • It saves money on transport and petrol costs
  • Walking doesn't damage the environment
  • It's a healthy way to disconnect from the school day - just like our commute from work
  • It's a great time to ask kids questions about their day for extra parental insight
  • Children love the extra playtime with classmates and those friends they don't see during the day
  • Walks offer lots of educational opportunities about wildlife, ways of life, weather and more.

What's not to love? If you're keen to get your kids walking to school, here's my best advice to make it a safe and fun activity - even during winter months.

Go for day glow!

High visibility reflectors, jackets or waistcoats are a really good idea as the nights draw in. Children are below the line of vision and easy to miss by passing cars. Go for day glow and they'll stand out a mile!

Plan your route

Make sure your kids know where their going - even if you're accompanying them. It will make them more aware of their surroundings. Be sure to teach them about crossing roads safely and avoiding certain areas if necessary.

Time your route

Some kids like to dawdle, some kids can't wait to race home. If they're old enough and the route is safe enough for them to walk alone or with friends, make sure you have a rough idea how long it will take them to get home.

Feed them healthy fuel

A good breakfast before the walk to school is essential. Porridge, Weetabix and other high fibre foods work well. Include a good snack for break time too, to make sure their energy levels remain topped up.

How do you approach the school run in your family? Do you shun or salute a daily walk? Every family approaches it differently so I'd love to know your thoughts.

Over on my blog, The Toy Hunter, I go into these tips in more detail and share some great ideas for winter walkers. Head over there now to learn how to encourage your kids to walk to school.

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