What age should kids start catching public transport to school?

How young is too young for kids to catch the bus or train to school on their own? The truth is, there’s no magic age (at least not a legal minimum one in Queensland) and it depends on the child, says Triple P’s Dr Alan Ralph.

Dr Ralph says parents are best placed to determine if their kids are ready for such a responsibility.

“Parents need to talk to their kids to determine if they think they are old enough, responsible enough and mature enough to take public transport on their own,” he says, “because some kids develop and mature earlier than others.”

How parents can help prepare young children:

  • Practise the route to school (or wherever the destination) together in advance. And don’t forget to practise the route home as well.
  • Talk about visual clues for where they will need to get off – things like easily identifiable signs, building or parks. Or the number of stops if they are catching the train.
  • Tell your child to ask the bus driver to tell them when it’s the correct stop. Your child might not have the same bus driver every day, so remind them to ask every time.
  • Have an ‘in case of emergency card’ that has your child’s name, home address, school, your name and contact details, and any other important information on it in case something doesn’t go to plan.
  • Talk about what to do if something goes wrong – things like who to tell, where to get off and wait, what to do – and make sure your child can repeat this ‘Plan B’.
  • A basic pre-paid mobile phone (not a smart phone) might give you peace-of-mind in an emergency – your child can call you or you can call them if needed.

A child’s inability to follow these suggestions, or refusal to cooperate, might be a sign they’re not ready yet says Dr Ralph.

“But if you have no other options then persistence might be needed. Or maybe start by accompanying your kids for parts of the journey and then backing off after they’ve mastered each step,” he says.