It’s almost time for your child to go back to school! While summer fun is coming to an end, now you can focus on preparing your kiddos for a safe, healthy, enjoyable time in class and during the after-school activities they love.
Whether your child will walk, take the bus, or get a ride — from you, your teenager, or a trusted adult — these seven back-to-school safety tips will help your family get ready for a great school year.
**Please note: Some of these tips might look a bit different if your child’s school is still requiring masks, holding online classes, etc. But you can still help your kiddo stay safe and healthy with a great immune system, quality childcare, and more.**
1. Boosting Their Immune Systems
It’s easy to let your kiddo’s eating habits get off track during summer, since family barbecues and ice cream cones are staples of the season. But it’s important to start eating healthier as a family before school starts. Getting a head start on boosting your child’s immune system will help in preventing colds, COVID-19, and other viruses, as well as fighting off germs that kids tend to share once they’re back in the classroom together.
Help your child eat healthier and boost their immune system by:
- Making sure your child is eating the right amount of zinc; beans, nuts, red meat, and poultry are great sources of the mineral.
- Protecting your kiddo’s gut with probiotics (in yogurt, pickles, and apple cider vinegar) and prebiotics (in green bananas, yams, and asparagus).
- Serving them seeds and nuts for a snack that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and more.
- Giving them oranges, lemons, limes, and strawberries for a Vitamin C boost.
- Establishing a bedtime and wake-up time that gives your child enough sleep each night. 3- to 5-year-olds need 10 to 13 hours of sleep; 6- to 12-year-olds need 9 to 12 hours; and 13- to 18-year-olds need 8 to 10 hours.
- Making sure your kiddo gets some type of exercise and movement every day.
2. Using Backpacks
Your child’s backpack might be too heavy for them, or they may be carrying it the wrong way. This can cause your kiddo to have back pain, fall over, or another backpack-related injury.
To prevent these problems, don’t overstuff your child’s backpack; it shouldn’t weigh more than 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. For example, if your 9-year-old weighs 60 pounds, their backpack should weigh between three and six pounds, tops. Have your kids wear their backpacks with both straps on their shoulders, too. This will help them evenly distribute their weight for safety and comfort.
3. Being Careful Around Adults
Most parents are worried about strangers around their kiddos, but child safety experts actually recommend a more holistic approach than “stranger danger.” Instead, we should teach our children how to recognize and address suspicious behavior in adults — even if your kid knows the adult.
First, make sure your child understands they should never accept a ride from a stranger, even if the person says they know you. And if someone makes your kiddo uncomfortable, teach them it’s okay to say “no,” leave the situation, and tell a trusted adult about what happened. Additionally, make sure your child knows their address and phone number in case a trusted adult needs to get ahold of you or deliver your child home safely.
4. Walking to School
Do you live close enough to school that your child can walk there? You’ll want to ensure they know to look both ways before crossing the street, obey traffic signals, and make themselves visible to drivers.
Here are a few walking-specific back-to-school safety tips:
- Teach your child to use crosswalks on the street.
- Make sure your child travels in a group.
- Tell your children (and especially your teens) to put their phones and headphones away while crossing the road.
- Have them stay on sidewalks when possible. If there are no sidewalks, tell your child to walk facing traffic and get over to the left as much as they can.
- Make sure your child is wearing a reflective item (clothing, backpack, etc.) so they’ll be more visible to drivers.
- Cross the street with your kiddo if they’re under 10 years old. (Most children can’t judge the speed, or distance away, of oncoming cars until age 10.)
5. Riding the School Bus
Sending your child off on the bus? They’ll be able to get to and from school with ease by following a few back-to-school safety tips.
Is your child is riding the bus for the first time this year? Go to the bus stop with them on the first day of school to teach them how to get on and off the bus. And even for older kids who’ve taken the bus before, make sure they know to stand 6 feet (or three bigs steps) away from the curb so they’re out of the way for the bus (and for other drivers).
Also, if your child has to cross the street, teach them to walk on the side of the street until they’re 10 feet ahead of the bus. That way, your child, their bus driver, and other drivers on the road will always be able to see each other.
6. Driving to School
Make sure you know (and follow) these school bus safety rules for motorists:
- Never pass a school bus on its right side.
- It’s illegal to pass a bus that’s picking up or dropping off children (when the bus’s lights flash red and a stop sign arm extends).
- All traffic (going in both directions) must stop on undivided roadways when a bus is dropping off or picking up children.
- Give the school bus a 10-foot berth, so children can safely enter and exit the bus.
Here are more guidelines for keeping kids safe while you (or your teenage drivers) are behind the wheel:
- Help your teenager practice driving often, before and after they get their license and drive to school.
- Watch for children crossing the street, or playing in residential areas and parks.
- Don’t block the crosswalk with your vehicle.
- Always stop when a crossing guard directs you to do so.
- Follow school zone speed limits and the school’s drop-off and pick-up procedures.
7. Going to Before- & After-School Care
If your work hours don’t line up with school drop-off and pick-up hours, a safe school-age childcare program may be the perfect solution. Then, you can start (or finish up) the workday with the peace of mind that comes from knowing your child is in a fun, safe, educational environment.
A great before- and after-school program will give your child the chance to learn and to be active. With school-age childcare at your local YMCA, they’ll be able to swim, play sports, try arts and crafts, and get homework help from licensed childcare professionals.
By following these back-to-school safety tips, you and your family can make this the best school year ever!
The Lafayette Family YMCA is a community dedicated to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.