Walking the talk with kids

“I REMEMBER when kids used to be able to walk,” I found myself ruminating to the children the other day.

“You mean, before there were cars?” the youngest asked in all sincerity. Frightening but true. The kids wanted to go to the park for a play. It was a beautiful day. The dog needed a good walk, too. But they still headed on autopilot for the car.

I can’t blame them. It’s a habit. More often than not they are belted into our car as I, or my spouse, chauffeur them to school, sporting activities, the shops, just about everything.

Being driven about in mum’s taxi wasn’t always the case.

“You have two good legs, use them” was what my parents used to say when I wanted a lift to the library or to a friend’s house.

Of course, as a kid I had to build up to being allowed out the door on my own. My mum used to walk me to school as a tiny tot every day. As I got older, she would walk part of the way with me and let me walk the last block or so. Then she would walk with me as far as the busiest road, just to make sure I got across safely and remembered all my road rules.

Walking to and from school was part of the day’s adventures. Sometimes there was real excitement. One time we saw an enormous water rat swimming in a storm drain after a torrential downpour. On another occasion there was a tawny frogmouth in a tree just inches from us. We rescued a lost dog and once found a $10 note, worth much more than now, ditched our Vegemite and peanut butter sandwiches and splurged on tuck-shop treats. And all the while we got regular daily exercise.

Of course, things have changed. Chances are the school our kids go to these days won’t be just around the block, but some distance away. The traffic seems so much heavier than it did back then. And, of course, many of us are worried about strangers with ill intent.

But kids do need to get out and about with the aid of their own two legs, and it can be done. It just takes a bit more planning than it did decades ago and doubtless a few growing pains for parent and child, but then doesn’t everything with the whole parenting gig?

“Walk Safely to School Day” is an annual, national event that encourages all primary students to walk and commute safely to school. This year it will be held on Friday, May 24.

More information at walk.com.au

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