The first day of school can be an exciting (and scary) time for both young children just starting school and their parents. If you have kids just starting kindergarten or first grade, we have some things you'll want to discuss before that first day of school to keep them safe and secure in and around the classroom.
1. Teach them how to be safe with school supplies. Pens, pencils, scissors and such are necessary parts of any classroom. However, for little ones, these can also be hazards. Make sure that your sons and daughters know how to handle scissors properly and to NEVER run with scissors. Also make them aware that even pens and pencils are sharp and can cause injury if not used correctly.
2. Talk to them about bullies. Bullies are a part of every school, unfortunately, so it's important to help your child develop the skills he or she needs to combat bullying and stay safe in the face of a bully. The week before that first day of school is not too soon to tackle the issue. Make sure that they know that bullying is wrong and that they can always come to you (or to the teacher) if someone is threatening them or making them feel unsafe. You don't want to scare them; you just want them to have the tools they need to thrive in the classroom. Encouraging your child to pursue his outside interests, like music, sports or dance, is another way to instill confidence in your child, and confidence is the enemy of bullies.
3. Make them aware (gently) of stranger danger. Another ever-present danger for little ones heading off to school is the possibility of strangers with evil intents. Tell your children to never talk with people they don't know outside of the classroom, even when the person says something like they are looking for a puppy or they have a treat in their car. Tell them to report anyone that approaches them in the school yard or on the way to school directly to the teacher. Stress the importance of following the school security rules and to never do things like prop open a door or let a stranger in the school by a side door.
4. Practice having a "school" lunch. Even lunchtime can be dangerous if your little ones aren't prepared. Avoid this by having a "practice" lunch before the first day of school. Make sure that your child knows how and is able to open containers, peel fruit and otherwise handle his lunch. Encourage him to always wash his hands before eating, as classrooms can be full of germs and viruses. Teach him to wash his hands vigorously for 30 seconds (about the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" in your head).
Also tell your children never to share or trade his or her lunch. You don't know who might have a food allergy. Also discourage your child from accepting any food from friends at lunchtime. You don't know how that sandwich was prepared or stored. This is especially important if YOUR child has a food allergy. Make sure that he or she understands the importance of food safety.
5. Talk about school bus safety. Good bus safety is about being alert. Advise your child to stay at least 10 steps away from the bus while waiting for and approaching it, so the driver can see him or her. Tell your little one to always cross in front of the bus, never behind, to stay seated while the bus is moving and to speak softly on the bus so as not to distract the driver. As we mentioned above, make sure to tell him or her not to talk with strangers while waiting for the bus to arrive.
6. Discuss playground safety. Each year, more than 200,000 school children visit emergency rooms around the U.S. because of playground accidents, according the National Safety Council . You can help avoid your child becoming one of these statistics by reviewing some basic safety tips with him or her before they head off to school this year. Tell them to be extra careful around swings and to wait to go down a slide until the child before them has finished and moved away from the slide. Also tell him or her to stay on the playground surface and not to wander and run into other parts of the school yard. According to the National Safety Council, 80 percent of playground injuries are due to falls, most of which happen off of the approved playground surface.
Going back to school doesn't have to be dangerous. Arm your little one with some basic safety knowledge and both of you can relax and enjoy the new school year.
Sandy Mitchell lives in the heart of Ohio’s wine country, where she’s a homeowner, landlord, and organic gardener. She is also a contributor to the Ross Feller Casey, LLP blog, where shares her advice on family safety and health issues.