Labour Day’s come and gone, which can mean only one thing for Ontario parents: a return to the routine of alarm clocks, homework and (our personal favourite) figuring out what to pack in the lunch bag that won’t end up getting traded or trashed. In the mad rush to get them out the door each morning, don’t forget to do a review of basic safety precautions. Here’s our top picks.
Take a load off. According the U.S. National Safety Council, a backpack should weigh no more than 10 to 20 per cent of a child’s body weight. That means a 60-pound child shouldn’t carry more than 12 pounds. Choose a backpack that’s designed to distribute weight evenly and feels comfortable. And encourage your child to wear both straps.
Walk this way. A whopping 93 per cent of Canadian children and youth aren’t getting the exercise recommended in the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. While walking (or cycling) to school is a great solution, according to Active Healthy Kids Canada, fewer than three in 10 kids get to school under their own steam. Active and Safe Routes to School is a fantastic resource for Canadian parents (and schools) to overcome barriers, including safety concerns. Safe Kids Canada has published Safe Roads Safe Kids, an easy-to-follow graphical guide to teaching your child to cross the road safely.
Play it safe. Check out the playground equipment at your child’s school. Are there wood chips or other soft material under all surfaces? Are there any rusty or broken pieces? Be sure to report any discoveries to the school’s administration. Eliminate a strangulation hazard by avoiding drawstrings around the neck of your child’s clothing. And review safe playground behaviour with your little ones: no crowding, pushing or other rough play.
Brush up on bus etiquette. Is your child one of the more than 818,000 students who ride the bus to school every day in Ontario? Then take a few minutes to review the rules, including where to wait for the bus (in a designated area well back from the road), the safe distance to cross in front of a bus (3 meters), how to act on the bus (stay seated and quiet), and the “danger zone” around a bus (anywhere children are close enough to touch the bus, because the driver won’t be able to see them). Adults need to know the laws that control how vehicles should behave around school buses—check out the Ministry of Transportation’s school bus safety sheet for a quick review.
Bye-bye bullies. According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, almost four in 10 males and three in 10 females report having been occasionally or frequently bullied during their school years, and Canada has the ninth highest rate of bullying among 13-year-olds in 35 countries studied. Canada’s leading resource on bullying prevention, Prevnet, defines bullying as a form of targeted, repeated abuse at the hands of peers. It is not a normal part of growing up. Parents can access practical strategies to help children develop healthy relationships and prevent violence from the Prevnet website.
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