When can you let children walk to school on their own?

How old does a child have to be before they can walk to school on their own? It’s questions like these that I ask myself, and wish I had a partner to ask. I might not agree with him, but at least it would be someone to share the responsibility with. As it is, I decide by myself, and if I get it wrong? Well, it’s down to me.

This morning Belle and I walked to school in complete silence. Not because we were too busy appreciating the beauty of the morning, nor was she sulking at having only sandwiches and fruit in her lunch box – we were silent because Belle was four metres ahead of me at all times.

She had decided she wanted to practice walking to school on her own, so I was to stay well behind and keep quiet, so she would know what it was like. So the whole way there I kept my distance, watching her quietly, my baby, all grown up, looking both ways carefully before she crossed the (very quiet) roads.

It did feel slightly odd, and I was very conscious of the High School Musical bag I was carrying, and the fact that I might look like a stalker.

We got to school on time for a change though, as she strode the whole way very purposefully – a change from her usual habit of skipping along beside me, getting distracted by stories from school, plants, or discussions about sunbathing rabbits.

Occasionally she broke into a skip – perhaps experimenting in her mind with the kind of walking style she was going to adopt when she was finally allowed to walk alone. I imagined she was trying out her Carefree Skipping Schoolgirl persona. She quickly stopped that though, opting instead for a head down, brisk march, occasionally looking up, but with a concentrated look on her face. This was clearly serious business.

When we finally arrived at school she looked very pleased with herself, in a terribly grown up, efficient way. She smiled at me quickly and ran off into school.

“Belle!” I called out after her.

She turned reluctantly – I had broken the silence, was I going to ruin the illusion and insist on a big kiss and cuddle?


“You’ve forgotten your bag!”

“Oh!” she looked puzzled, and then realised what I was saying, laughed, and came running back. “Silly me, I wouldn’t have had any lunch!”

And so my baby returned, and my usefulness as a mother was restored.



  1. 21 May, 2010 / 4:19 pm

    Aahh. They grow up so fast don’t they? I don’t think there’s a set time or one size fits all age as to when they can walk to school. You know your own child and what she’s capable of and how busy the roads are etc. For instance, I don’t let mine walk by himself yet and he’s 10 – there’s loads of busy roads and they say proper road sense doesn’t kick in until they’re about 10. He has to prove to me first that he can do small journeys. Having said that, I do sometimes lag behind him like you did. My husband and I have different ideas about it – he let him cross a major road by himself the other day which I would have had kittens about had I been there.

    Still, I know I can’t still be walking him to school for ever!

    • 21 May, 2010 / 6:21 pm

      You’re right, it varies so much from child to child, and parent to parent too. I guess I should really count mysef lucky that I get to make all the decision myself really!

  2. 21 May, 2010 / 4:28 pm

    Tell me that’s not a picture of her actual lunch box.

    • 21 May, 2010 / 6:22 pm

      Of course! I get up at 5am every morning and craft her lunch by hand.

      Not really. She gets a cheese spread sandwich and an apple if she’s lucky. It’s cute though isn’t it? It’s from flickr, from a women who has literally hundreds of pictures of lunchboxes – it’s crazy.

  3. 21 May, 2010 / 4:50 pm

    That was a delight. Thanks for brightening my day.

    • 21 May, 2010 / 6:27 pm

      Thank you Brian – I just read your post on ‘moribund creativity’ and very much enjoyed that too. I am thinking of adopting “feed the stomach, empower the fingers” as a personal motto.

  4. 21 May, 2010 / 9:17 pm

    My 6 (almost 7) year old has started walking beside me with his hands in his pocket, ’cause that’s apparently what big boys do. He keeps forgetting though, and slipping his hand into mine. Bliss.

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