Organize a Safe Return to School

Safety factors to consider before going back to school in the fall.

Whether your child is headed off to kindergarten or university, the basics of getting organized and establishing new routines are equally important. Get a head start by developing a family safety plan before Labour Day. This is especially important for families who have just moved to a new area or students moving up from elementary to junior high or high school.

Supply children with an index card containing emergency contact information to carry in their wallet or backpack. Laminate it so it will last all year. Include home phone, mom/dad's work and cell numbers, sitter, neighbour, school phone and teacher's name. Protect personal information by identifying personal possessions, uniforms and sporting equipment using labels listing only the student's name and school instead of home address.

Review street proofing strategies with children of all ages such as how and when to cross the street and how to handle a bully or any confrontational situations. Children have been taught not to talk to strangers but at a new school everyone will be a stranger. Clearly identify who should be considered a stranger and who to go to when they have a question or require assistance. Role-play some simple scenarios to increase your child's confidence at starting conversations and making new friends. Familiarize little ones with the schoolyard so they will look forward to recess.  Stock their backpack with small toys such as a ball or a skipping rope that they can play with along with a new friend or by themselves. 

Determine the bus routes for the school bus as well as the city bus. Map out the main pathways as well as alternate ways to get to and from school whether taking the bus or walking. Drive to the school and make note of where the block parent signs are located. Discourage short cuts through hidden catwalks or alleyways. If children will be biking to school, perform a bike safety check and go over road safety for bikers. Insist that head protection be worn and demonstrate how to correctly wear a helmet. You'll want to invest in a good quality lock for the bike.

Double check if the school start time is the same as last year. Does the school bus come at the usual time to the usual stop? Do children need a bus pass or bus tickets? Remind children to demonstrate proper behaviour on the school bus or public transit.  Provide bus tickets or backup cash for city transit in case the school bus is missed or doesn't come. Have students store their pass or tickets in a plastic cardholder to make it easy to find in a dark backpack.

To avoid initial confusion for young children, stress that they get on at one bus stop but get off at another. Point out recognizable landmarks near their bus stop. Plan who will meet young children at the bus stop and what the back up plan will be in the event that they aren't met. Who should they call? Who do they have permission to carpool with?

Is your child coming home to an empty house for the first time? That's a big new responsibility that requires a different kind of safety training. Be sure to establish house rules regarding after school guests. Devise an emergency plan and include how to use 911, first aid training, escape routes in case of fire and where in the neighbourhood to go for help.

Copyright, Karen Sencich 2005

Tree and Decorating Tips

Tree and Decorating Tips

Click here for a tree decorating demonstration and some quick holiday tips.

Or watch the fast forward 
9 second version!

Photography and video courtesy of Alan Sencich




Articles by Karen Sencich appear in:


Sign up for our email newsletter:

Tackle it Now Tip

Hints for Handling Your Gift List

How do you handle your holiday wish lists? Sometimes the simplest hints are the best. For years I have been using the same easy to implement method.

  • I purchase the tiniest address book I can find and assign one page for each person on my guest list.
  • I record their sizes, colour and style preferences.
  • I include family members, friends, hairdresser and all service providers.
  • I keep the list inside my wallet so it can quickly and easily be updated.
  • Information for stocking gifts is also recorded.
  • I can frequently review what I have purchased to keep my budget on track.
  • As I wrap gifts I check them off!
  • If certain gifts need to be hidden I record where they were put.
  • I also list ideas and purchases of hostess gifts to keep on hand.

There are many benefits to this system. It is lightweight and portable, but most importantly since I keep the lists year after year, it helps me to prevent repeating gift ideas. Who wants to get a sweater or tie year after year?


Read more..