You’ve seen plenty of kids biking and walking to school, so why not skateboard? Alternative forms of transportation are great for the environment, and they get the heart pumping! But before you ditch the car or the bus, there are a few things to consider. Is your child ready to ride all the way to school? This question is especially fraught if your kiddo’s commute to the classroom is solo. Allowing your child to go anywhere unsupervised is an enormous decision, and deeply personal. But today we hope to help ease that decision-making burden and shed some light on how to tell if and when your child is ready to ride their skateboard to school and potentially alone. As is always the case with matters of safety, we urge you to listen to your gut and use common sense to make the safest decision for your family. Now let’s jump right in…
Skateboarding to school brings many advantages over biking. One of the largest is that the opportunity for theft diminishes significantly since your child can likely bring his or her board into their classroom or store the board in their locker. On the whole, bikes are far more likely to be stolen than skateboards, so choosing to opt for the board better protects your investment! Not just a sound investment, skateboards can also increase your student's style amongst their peers (all the cool kids are doing it, mom!), especially when their board is outfitted with the sickest accessories! And ultimately, concerning safety, many parents prefer skateboards to bikes for school transportation since bikes are relegated to the street, and skateboards are better for the sidewalks. This increases the distance from car traffic to your child, making them inherently safer.
And while we are all thrilled about skateboarding being safer, there are still many factors to consider when deciding on a commute. How can you know when a child is ready to use a board to commute to school? If the child is traveling with you, your main concerns will be the child listening to you, and whether the child is physically capable of pushing the board all the way to and from school while wearing his or her backpack. Try taking a few practice walks together. Does your kiddo quickly tire of the board and ask to walk or be carried? Do they listen when you ask them to stop or slow down? A child who is ready to board to school should enjoy longer jaunts on their skateboard and listen attentively when they are given instructions, particularly when car and pedestrian traffic is involved.
But what about determining when your child is ready to commute to school alone? As we mentioned, this is highly personal, and this article isn’t meant to be prescriptive. But we will offer you a few strategies to help your family make the best decision. First, you should be sure that your child knows the necessary traffic and safety rules. Looking both ways before you cross the street is a great start, but traffic safety is much more complicated. Your child should be well versed in the standard hand signals (turning left, turning right, stopping, slowing down, etc.) as well as knowledge of traffic patterns. Skaters should always ride with traffic – never against it! Anyone who walks or rides on a heavily trafficked street should also have respect for vehicle traffic and always assume a vehicle will not be looking for them on the sidewalk. A child who is cavalier about car traffic is not ready for this freedom.
You will also want to determine the best and safest route for your child to travel while commuting. Just because the route is shortest does not make it the best. When choosing their route you should consider the following:
- How many times will your child cross a minor or major street?
- How heavily trafficked are the streets along the route?
- Are crossing guards are available?
- Is the sidewalk wide enough and in decent condition?
- What is the total distance your child will travel?
- Should your child become hurt or afraid, are there ample resources around for help?
Finally, you will want to asses your child’s personal level of responsibility. This is inherently hard to quantify, but when your child travels alone, he or she should have a healthy respect for and skepticism of unknown people and situations. You may want to use the following questions as a guideline for determining responsibility and safety readiness (often called the Test of Twelve):
1. Does your child know how to honor his feelings? If someone makes him uncomfortable, that's an important signal.
2. Are you as the parent strong enough to hear about any experience your child has had, no matter how unpleasant?
3. Does your child know it's okay to rebuff and defy adults?
4. Does your child know it's okay to be assertive?
5. Does your child know how to ask for assistance or help?
6. Does your child know how to choose who to ask? For example, he should look for a woman with children to help him.
7. Does your child know how to describe his peril?
8. Does your child know it's okay to strike, even to injure, someone if he believes he is in danger, and that you'll support any action he takes as a result of feeling uncomfortable or afraid?
9. Does your child know it's okay to make noise, to scream, to yell, to run?
10. Does your child know that if someone ever tries to force him to go somewhere, what he yells should include, ''This is not my father''? Onlookers seeing a child yell or even struggle are likely to assume the adult is a parent.
11. Does your child know that if someone says, ''Don't yell,'' the thing to do is yell? The corollary is if someone says, ''Don't tell,'' the thing to do is tell.
12. Does your child know to fully resist ever going anywhere out of public view with someone he doesn't know, and particularly to resist going anywhere with someone who tries to persuade him?
While these are decidedly unpleasant things to dwell upon, they are essential qualities to assess. While your child will hopefully not encounter anything sinister on their commute, readiness is necessary in case the situation ever arises.
Whenever you determine that your child is capable of commuting to school solo, we always recommend a cell phone, if only for emergencies. If you live close to your child’s school in a heavily residential area, you may be able to send them to school solo at a younger age versus a dense urban area. Whatever the case, take the time to make an informed decision that fits your particular family.
Skateboarding to school brings incredible freedom and fun for your child! Suddenly meeting up with friends before or after school becomes more accessible. Commuting becomes less like a chore and something to actually look forward to. Whenever your child is ready, we can’t recommend it highly enough! If you find yourself needing recommendations for skate gear (think safety, moms and dads!) head over here for our very top picks!