With huge snowbanks, freezing temperatures and slippery conditions, it is too dangerous for children to walk to and from school during the winter? ❄
With a little preparation, walking to school is easy and good for you, regardless of the season! (Don’t let other winter cities catch wind that we’re debating this topic; they will be very disappointed in us).
Winter weather conditions should be no reason for your family to avoid going outside. It is usually just a matter of planning ahead and being prepared to make an outdoor activity, such as walking to and from school, both doable and enjoyable. Making sure your child is dressed warmly with as much of their body covered as possible, as they are particularly susceptible to heat loss and frostbite, is a key consideration before they leave the house. It may seem obvious, but being properly dressed makes such a difference in taking pleasure from the weather! Don’t forget: your children spend upwards of 30+ minutes outside at school for recess and over the lunch hour, so they’ll be out and have to be well-dressed anyways! It’s always a good idea to send extra dry mitts, hats, etc. to school so they have items to change into if needed.
In regards to traffic concerns, by walking with your child or planning and practicing the route together, you can teach them important road safety skills. This includes making sure vehicles have stopped and eye contact with the driver has been made before stepping from the curb, or looking both ways (and double checking) before crossing. This is an especially important lesson given the impact road conditions can have on a vehicle’s ability to stop quickly and the risks associated with fewer hours of daylight. Learn more about safety and walking to school in our Active and Safe Routes to School handbook.
There may seem to be less incentive to being outdoors during the winter, but showing your child that it can be easy and fun (i.e. sledding to school!) leads to a lifetime of wonderful winter activity and a more positive outlook. It’s about embracing winter for what it is and steering away from the negativity. Redirect conversations about the “horrors” of winter to the opportunities and benefits of the season instead. Help others by tackling exaggerations about the cold, amount of snow, and length. Learn more about appreciating winter here.
Your opportunity to celebrate walking, sledding, biking, etc. to school in winter is fast approaching! Join us in the fun by participating in Jack Frost Challenge on February 3-9, 2019!
Jack Frost Challenge
The Jack Frost Challenge is a free, week-long challenge for ALL Manitobans.
Gather a team of 1-5 family members, friends, or co-workers to complete 130 collective kilometres of outdoor activities. This could include walking, running, biking, skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and more!
All you need to do is register and log your kilometres of outdoor activity during the week of February 3-9.
*NEW: This year we are hosting a Winter Walk to School Day (Feb. 6th) and Winter Bike to School Day (Feb. 8th) so that schools, students, and their families can join in on Jack Frost Challenge! Register your school here.
For more myths, see our Green Myth Busting page.
This blog was been updated from 2011.
How do you prepare a toddler who has just learnt to walk to navigate through the ice in these conditions. Are there any toddler shoes with ice grips you know of?
Hi Aggie – thank you for reading our blog and sharing your concern. I completely understand not wanting to put our little ones at risk when conditions feel unsafe! However, icy conditions are inevitable in Manitoba. It’s for the best that we find ways to get children used to walking in these conditions, better preparing them for the future! Many studies have found the importance of physical activity and physical literacy (i.e. learning proper movements) for preventing falls and injuries later on in life. I did a quick google search and found some ice grips for toddler boots (see the brand Mountain Baby here), and I’m sure there are others out there as well.
The importance of selecting the right shoes for walking on icy or snow packed sidewalks cannot be over-emphasized. I have one pair of walking shoes that are very comfortable in summer. However in wintertime the soles become hard and they become very slippery – very uncomfortable. I have another pair of walking shoes where the sole remains soft in wintertime. These shoes are not slippery, and for that reason are much, much more comfortable for winter walking.
What about ice? I take the bus and walk to school the rest of the way, it’s a 20 minute walk and it’s terrible! The ice in my city gets so bad, barley anyone salts their portion of sidewalk and it’s really easy to slip.
Yes, walking on ice can be difficult! Especially when the condition of sidewalks aren’t maintained properly. The following are some helpful tips found on SafetyinSchools.ca, but I would also encourage you to report dangerous walking conditions to 311 and/or your local Councillor:
1) Choose a good pair of winter boots. They should be warm and waterproof with a thick, non-slip sole made of natural rubber with good traction. A low heel makes it easier to maintain your balance.
2) Keep your sidewalks, driveways and other surfaces clear of ice and snow and report hazardous sidewalks and pathways to your municipality.
3) Slow down! Spread your feet about a foot apart to provide a good base of support before you begin walking. When taking a step, place your whole foot down at once and shift your bodyweight to that foot before lifting the other. Take smaller steps than you typically take on dry, summer sidewalks. Some people find it helpful to shuffle rather than take steps when walking on icy surfaces.
4) Keep your centre of gravity over your front leg. Lean slightly forward as you walk and hold your arms out slightly to help you balance.
5) Keep your hands free. Keeping your hands in your pockets makes it more challenging to remain balanced and also increases the risk of injuring yourself more severely if you do fall. Wear warm gloves so that you don’t feel tempted to keep your hands in your pockets.
Hope this helps!