Send Your Kids Back to School Safely
Traveling to and from School
- STOP: Teach your kids - whether walking, biking, or riding the bus to school - to obey all traffic signs and traffic officers. Remind them to routinely stop at every street.
- HELMET: If your child bikes, make sure he wears a helmet that meets safety standards. Research indicates that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85%
- STAY BEHIND BUS: Tell your child not to bend down in front of the bus to tie shoes or pick up objects, as the driver may not see him before starting to move.
- PLAN THE PATH: Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and, if possible, with intersections that have crossing guards.
- SAFE RIDING: Remind your children to stay seated at all times and keep their heads and arms inside the bus while riding. When exiting the bus, children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, exit from the front using the handrail to avoid falls and cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus.
- 911: Be sure that your child knows his or her home phone number and address, your work number, the number of another trusted adult and how to call 911 for emergencies.
On the playground
- SAFE EQUIPMENT: Check the playground equipment at your child's school. Look for hazards such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Spaces that can trap children, such as openings between ladder rungs, should measure less than three and a half inches or more than nine inches. All elevated surfaces, such as ramps, should have guardrails to prevent falls
- SUPERVISION: Make sure a supervisor is always present when children are at the school's playground. For smaller children, a spotter may be necessary.
- SHOCK-ABSORBENT: If they fall, will they still be safe? Playground equipment should be surrounded by shock-absorbing material that is at least nine inches thick.
- ATTIRE: Avoid any drawstrings on the hood or around the neck of jackets and sweatshirts. Drawstrings at the waist or bottom of jackets should extend no more than three inches long to prevent catching in car and school bus doors or getting caught on playground equipment.
- PLAY NICE: Teach children proper playground behavior: no pushing, shoving, or crowding.
- UP-TO-DATE TOYS: Make sure your child's school has up-to-date information on recalled toys and children's products.
- BACKPACK WEIGHT: Injuries from heavy backpacks result in more than 7,000 ER visits per year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. To prevent injury, backpacks should have wide straps, padding in the back and shoulders, and should not weigh more than 10-15% of a child's body weight. Rule of thumb: if the parents can't curl it, it's too heavy.
- BACKPACK WEAR: It might look cooler not to, but children should always use both backpack straps for even distribution of weight.
- PROPER PACKING: When placing items in a backpack, place the heavier items in first. The closer the heavier items are to a child's back, the less strain it will cause.
- PRE-PARTICIPATION EXAM: With more than 7 million high school students playing sports, the key is to be sure that young athletes are gradually acclimating to their sport and not just diving head first. Make sure your child is both physically and mentally prepared for the sport. Have a pre-participation medical exam, especially if your child has asthma or something similar, so you can develop an action plan.
- HEAT & HYDRATION: It is also important to take weather into consideration. Heat - especially in Texas - is a real danger to athletes and should be taken seriously. The days of being tough for not drinking water need to be forgotten.
- SAFETY GEAR: Lastly, make sure they have properly fitting protective gear. This might mean spending extra money to get gear that actually fits your younger son and not just hand-me-downs from big brother. Don't compromise safety to save a few bucks.
- REST: Make sure that athletes are allowing sufficient down time for recovery. With a little consideration and monitoring, you can cheer for your child from the sidelines knowing that you've taken a few precautions that may decrease the odds of an injury.
About Dr. Alfred Mansour
Pediatric Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Surgeon at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital
About Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital
We are one of only two level 1 pediatric trauma centers in Houston
Because of this, we are able to care for the city's most serious and critical pediatric cases, but we also care for the routine injuries as well.
In orthopedics, we see a high volume of playground and sports injuries - specifically a lot of ankle, ankle and wrist fractures (trampoline, bicycle falls, monkey bars, football)