This week Martin von Wyss shares some thoughts on leaving the car at home and putting on the walking shoes (hint: it’s a good idea!).
Did you know that October is officially known to the Department of Health as Walk to School month? Kew Primary School is on board and Boroondara City Council is also willing and funded to assist us. So what is it all about?
The website, walktoschool.vic.gov.au spells out the initiative, gives tips on what’s good about walking and dispels myths that might stop parents and carers from walking to school with their children. It also touches on how important it is for older children to experience the independence of walking to school alone and learning to navigate their way through their neighbourhood.
Recently I had to take the boys home from their grandparents’ without the usual wheels they were accustomed to. The first-grader flat-out refused to go anywhere unless he was driven. In a moment of inspiration I suggested “Why don’t we count things on the way home?”. I was to be in charge of counting earth-bound animals like cats and dogs, the big brother was in charge of counting bicycles and motorcycles, and His Nibs would tally flying things: birds, pterodactyls and helicopters. Immediately the mood went from one of dread to one of excitement and adventure. We kept accurate counts on the way home but also saw –and counted, of course– lizards and beetles.
Another way to learn some science on the walk is to get the WalkToSchool app for iPhone and Android and let the GPS do the adding up of kilometres walked. If yours are like my boys, the children will love watching the tally increase over the course of the month, just as the weekend cycling and running nuts in the family keep their logs. The app also includes games, so it’s sure to get the youngsters interested.
Other than an opportunity to quantify our environment, what’s a walk good for? To me it means no parking hassles and no chance of fender benders, no petrol and running costs, no aggression from unfriendly drivers, and no anxiety about letting junior out of the car when I can’t find a spot to park.
And of course walking is a great way to get exercise and fight Australia’s increasing obesity problem. Did you know that Australia’s obesity rate is growing faster than any other country’s?! True story. Walking appeals to me is because I believe it is a form of the best way to combat middle-age spread, incidental exercise. Forget the gym fees, the drive time and the athletic gear. Walking to school gives you exercise, keeps costs down, and teaches the children about independent travel, local geography and the fun of serendipitous encounters. Give it a try — you might be surprised at how close you actually live to school!
Martin von Wyss