At What Age Can Your Child Walk to School Alone?

The age at which child safety experts say it's okay for kids to walk alone

Two young girls walking to school
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Question: At What Age Can Your Child Walk to School Alone?


While many school-age kids -- and their parents -- may think they can handle walking to and from the school bus stop and even all the way to school by themselves as early as 2nd or 3rd grade, many child safety experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that kids are really not able to handle emergencies or unforeseen situations until about age 10, or 5th grade.

Before age 10, parents can begin practicing child safety rules to get their grade-schooler ready to be more independent, and eventually, walk to school by himself.

Teach your child to:

  • Pay attention to traffic at all times when crossing the street; never become distracted.
  • Always cross at the intersection where there are traffic lights; do not cross in the middle of the block.
  • Look left, right, and then left again before crossing; cross while keeping an eye on traffic.
  • Always watch for turning vehicles when crossing the street.
  • Remember that drivers may not see them, even if they can see the driver.
  • Never, ever, follow someone who is either a stranger or someone they know but is not a designated "safe" adult. (A safe adult is someone who has been previously agreed upon by you and your child to be a caregiver, such as a grandparent or trusted neighbor). And if that person tries to convince him to go with him or tries to physically get close to him, then scream, "Help! This is not my dad!" or "Help! This is not my mom!" and run away. If he grabs him, tell him to kick, punch, and hit as hard as he can.
  • If she should somehow get lost even after practicing the route with you a number of times, have her ask a woman -- preferably a woman with a child or baby -- for help.

Of course, these are general guidelines. Only parents can really know what their child can handle. If you have a 10-year-old who is cautious and pays attention to his surroundings, he may be ready to go to school alone.

But if your child is easily distracted and isn't likely to always remember to look before crossing a street, then you may want to wait. As with other safety and health issues, trust your instincts; you know your child better than anyone.

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