updated 8 Jun 2013, 09:13
Login password
Mon, May 27, 2013
My Paper
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
At what age does a kid walk to school alone?
by Clara Chow

SINGAPORE - It is a question that has started popping up in the Manic Household, even though the Manic Firstborn is only halfway through Primary 1: When can he start walking to school alone?

The Supportive Spouse, who now gets the honour of walking our son to school (because I drove the kids to and from pre-school for four years and deserve a break), is obviously interested in the answer. And so is the son, who is looking forward to asserting his independence more each day.

Both think that Primary 3 or 4 is a good time to start solo school walks. As a school boy in Australia, the SS himself had started taking public transport aged 10.

I am, however, the paranoid one who wants to put the inevitable off. I think the boy should start walking to school and back on his own only when he is in Secondary 1.

"Do you want his friends to laugh at him?" asks the SS, not unreasonably.

Indeed, I am being ridiculous. After all, we live four blocks away from the school and it takes all of seven minutes to stroll there.

In between, there are two small carparks, and a two-way street with a traffic signal and volunteers to direct cars and supervise kids crossing. There is little vehicular traffic at 7am, and many boys and their parents pass through our area on foot, on their way to the school compound.

It is a simple, straight route which our boy would no doubt be able to traverse on auto-pilot with time.

However, the world is full of scary things, especially when you are a mother. What if he meets a kidnapper or a molester along the way? What if he starts chasing a friend and they make a mad dash across the carpark, in the path of a speeding car? What if he meets a gang of void-deck hooligans and decides to play truant?

Recent tragic events in the news have not helped. It still hurts my heart to think about the poor young brothers who lost their lives in a terrible accident with a cement truck earlier this year.

And, earlier this month, the freeing of three women abducted years ago in Cleveland brings home the sobering fact that many such crimes take place in the victims' own neighbourhoods or backyards.

In January this year, a study by the University of Westminster revealed that only 25 per cent of primary-school children in England are allowed to travel home from school alone, compared to 86 per cent in 1971. In a way, it is a rather-depressing statistic: Kids are no longer allowed to roam freely in a way that is good for their emotional and physical development.

On the other hand, it is a sign of the more-complicated times.

Writer Lisa Flam recently wrote on The New York Times' Motherlode parenting blog about how her 13-year-old son faced a dilemma when a little old lady called out to him on his way home and asked him to go into her house.

Over-ruling what he had been taught about "stranger danger", he eventually went with her, to help move some boxes that the 84-year-old woman was too frail to carry. His act of kindness did not land him in peril - this time.

Still, at what age will kids be able to make judgments about what is safe and what isn't, on their own?

Most safety experts, from my research online, stress that there is no right age for a child to start walking to school and home alone.

While the guideline is between 10 and 12, it depends on the child's maturity, as well as their and your comfort levels. recommends taking the Test of Twelve, a dozen questions including: "Does your child know that if someone says, 'Don't yell', the thing to do is yell?"

It may be a few more years before my son starts voyaging solo to school. But the SS and I have already agreed that when he starts, we will get him a GPS device to carry in his pocket, for our peace of mind.

We'll be glad to hear from readers on what age they let their children go it alone.

[email protected]

Get My Paper for more stories.

readers' comments

Landed Property must be worth millions are lucky to be able to inherit a fortune;)
Posted by singleton on Wed, 29 May 2013 at 15:01 PM
Alot different compare with my time.
Nowadays maid do all the tasks...carry bag n buy lunch if there is extra lesson.
Posted by hfourhappy on Wed, 29 May 2013 at 11:51 AM

parents will fetch them to school, how about going home AFTER school?

Also for poly, if the family can afford a car now for their 16yr old kid, then I'm sure they'll need to hire a chauffer also.
Posted by patfong00 on Wed, 29 May 2013 at 11:47 AM
See lah ... I could have proven to U that all these birth rate surveys are not true if U last time give me chance become your hubby and we produce 3~5 babies ... :p :D :D

But too late now ... will have to let a good Sg man to prove it to U now ... :D

Posted by Small Fly on Wed, 29 May 2013 at 11:15 AM
I use the guideline of need. Most primary schools in Singapore, P1 and P2 afternoon session. P3 onwards are mostly morning session.

My children take a public bus home from P3 onward. And with the following directives, NOT guidelines.

Directive #4342764578385438284728 states

i) You are the best I have and will ever have. And while I can help you in many things. I cannot help you when you are dead. Please try to stay alive.

ii) While communication is encouraged, I trust that you have the aptitude to differentiate.

iii) Understand the rate of change in moving object(s) is an intrinsic characteristics of all living things. So use it wisely.

iv) DO NOT ask/request/demand your grandmother to carry your school bag. Failure to comply WILL results in Fine of up to .....
Posted by Limos2010 on Wed, 29 May 2013 at 00:18 AM
for some kids, they don't even have a chance to walk alone:eek:
kindergarden:)..too young to walk, so maid or grandmum/dad, fetch:)
pri sch:)..too dangerous to walk alone, so maid/parents/ grandparents fetch:)
sec sch;)since for 6 yrs need someone to accomapny to sch, parents will fetch them on the way to work;)
Poly/ U:cool:now, no need to fetch already, can drive on their own to sch n back:cool:
Posted by nappys on Tue, 28 May 2013 at 23:45 PM

High 5! Right on! :D
Posted by DimpleGuy on Tue, 28 May 2013 at 23:29 PM

right,, me think so too,,:)
Posted by itangg12 on Tue, 28 May 2013 at 23:27 PM

under current situation in SG, primary 6 is pretty much the right age for them to learn to be independent.
Posted by DimpleGuy on Tue, 28 May 2013 at 23:23 PM
i let themself go school after pr 6,, that when my wife went back to work;)
Posted by itangg12 on Tue, 28 May 2013 at 23:22 PM

Copyright © 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.