Keep your kids safe and sound when back to school

kids walking to school

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) The countdown continues for students all across West Michigan who are getting ready to head back to school. Brennecke Hinojosa, the principal of River City Scholars Charter Academy, operated by National Heritage Academies, has some tips on back to school safety and getting your kids back on a school schedule.

Backpack safety 

The backpack is one of the most common back to school items parents buy. But you have to consider more than just color and brand. You need to make sure it is going to be safe for your child’s back. It’s recommended that children carry backpacks no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. So the backpack of a child that weighs 80 pounds shouldn’t weigh more than eight to 12 pounds.

Potential problems:

  • A back pack that is too heavy can force a child to lean forward, disrupting their normal alignment which can lead to back problems down the road.
  • Only wearing one strap of the backpack can force a child to lean to one side which can lead to lower back and neck pain.
  • Lugging a heavy backpack around can cause the child to have fatigue and can cause balance issues when going up and down stairs.

How to buy the best backpack:

  • Focus first on a lightweight backpack. Leather may look nice, but it can add unnecessary weight.
  • Two wide, padded shoulder straps. Staps that are too narrow can dig into shoulders.
  • Multiple compartments can help distribute weight more evenly.

Arrival and dismissal safety

It’s important to talk to students about arrival and dismissal at school depending on how they are getting there. There are some steps parents can take to make sure their child is prepared for school arrival and dismissal.

  • For student walkers, make sure young walkers have an older sibling, friend, or group of students to walk with.
  • Remind your child to never talk to a stranger, or accept a ride from anyone on their way to school.
  • Establish a code word with your child. Have a word that only the two of you know for emergencies. Set up another code word so anyone that is permitted to take your child or pick them up has to use the code word so that your child knows it’s okay.
  • Tell your child to trust their gut. Children are much more intuitive than adults. Tell your children that if they get a bad feeling, to walk away.
  • Do not keep your child’s name printed on anything visible to strangers. Their clothing, jackets, backpacks should not have their name on the outside.
  • Map out the route with your child before the school year begins so they are taking the most efficient way to get to school.
  • Remind your child to always use crossing guards and to wait for the guard to stop traffic on their behalf.
  • Bus riders need to make sure they have their destination tags visible on their backpacks the first few weeks of school.
  • When parents have the ability to drive their student to and from school, there are great opportunities for communication during that drive. Parents can prepare students for the day ahead, and then on the drive home they can hear all about what happened in the classroom.

School zone driving safety tips

  • Reduced speed limits need to be followed.
  • Always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading children.
  • Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
  • Be aware of and watch out for children near schools, bus stops, sidewalks, and in the streets.
  • Put your phone down while driving through school zones.

Get on a Back-To-School Routine

Sleep Schedule 

Everyone loves Michigan summers and with the longer daylight, students tend to stay up later during summer break. But in August, it’s a good idea to start easing students back into an earlier bedtime to ensure they are well rested for the first week of school.

It’s recommended that children ages six to 11 get ten to 11 hours of sleep a night. Children 12 and older need at least nine hours of sleep. This is so important to their learning. If a child is sleepy in the classroom, they are not going to be able to focus on learning, and if they become fidgety to try to stay awake, they will be disruptive to others.

We have some tips to help children get back into the earlier bedtime routine.

  • Two weeks from the start of the school, go back to the school night bedtime. If your household wake up time is 6 or 6:30 a.m. then you want children in bed around 8 p.m.
  • Turn off electronics one hour before bedtime so children can start to unwind. Also, make sure no electronics are in their room at night.
  • Nix any caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep kids up all night. A best practice is to not allow them to have a caffeinated drink after lunchtime.
  • Use a bedtime alarm. Thirty minutes before you want your child in bed resting, have the alarm go off so they know to set their bedtime routine.
  • Set the mood. Since it is still light out at 8 p.m. you could invest in room darkening curtains or simply hang a blanket on the curtains for the next month until it is dark out at 8 p.m. Also, keep the room dark, cool, and quiet.

Balanced Diet 

We know it can be hectic in the morning to get everyone out of the door. But when establishing your back to school routine, parents really need to set aside time for a healthy breakfast.

A study in 2013 in Frontier in Human Neuroscience found that eating a healthy breakfast raised grades while skipping breakfast marked a decline in school performance.

Here are some brain-boosting breakfast ideas to consider:

  • Breakfast burrito with whole grain tortilla and scrambled eggs.
  • Whole grain pancakes with fruit
  • Breakfast cookie made with oatmeal, bananas, apple sauce, and skim milk.
  • Peanut butter wrap. Just take a tortilla, spread peanut butter and throw in some bananas.

River City Scholars Charter Academy participates in the community eligibility provision, which allows them to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. They also have a great after school program for fourth grade students called Cooking Club. It’s a very hands-on learning opportunity where students follow recipes to create a fresh meal. They are incorporating math and reading skills while learning healthy eating options. It’s a very popular class.


When you have proper sleep and a healthy diet, the third ingredient to a health mind and body is exercise. All students receive physical education classes throughout the week to get their bodies moving. Having an exercise regimen at home, or letting your child explore after school sport can not only boost their heart health, but also help with coordination and social skills.

Talk to your child about their interests and encourage them to follow through on a new sport. Here are some areas that team sports like soccer and basketball can help with.

  • Attention/focus
  • Stamina
  • Gross motor skills like jumping, kicking, balance
  • Social skills such as teamwork and communication
  • Behavior such as impulse control and discipline.

For young students who can search for activities at local organizations that allow children to try the sport for a shorter period of time.


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