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The Safe Way to School
5 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe
You already know that activity is one of the keys to keeping your kids healthy and fit. And walking or biking to school is one of the best, most convenient ways for your kids to get the activity they need.
But if you’re like most parents, you have concerns about making sure your children stay safe on the road to school. Here are five ways you can ensure that the kiddos are playing it safe while getting the activity they need to stay healthy.
Tip #1: Route planning
Help your kids plan the route they’ll use to bike or walk to school. Your goals are to make sure the route is adequately equipped with safety devices to help your kids navigate traffic and to make sure your kids are always out in the open and not in secluded areas.
Choose a route with sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic signals and little traffic. Avoid dangerous intersections and shortcuts that are off the beaten path. Also, be sure your child is aware of any hazards along the way. For example, if the route you choose has a hidden driveway, point it out to your kids so they understand to pay careful attention there.
Tip #2: Stranger evasion
Giving your kids strategies for dealing with strangers is paramount for their safety and your peace of mind. Tell your children to never talk to a stranger, whether on foot or in a car, and to run if they’re ever approached. Select safe houses—neighbors along the route—that your kids can run to whenever they feel like they need help. Let your neighbors know that your kids will be walking or biking this route so they know to watch out for them.
Tip #3: Testing, testing
Who says school is the only place your kids have to take tests? Make it clear that they won’t be walking or biking to school on their own unless they can pass a safety test that you devise. Customize the safety test to their route and ask questions about specific actions they should take, situations they need to avoid and safe places. Also ask general questions about the rules of the road so that you can be satisfied that they understand their responsibilities as pedestrians and bicyclists.
Don’t think your kids will go for a test? Give them an alternative. If they refuse to take it or don’t pass, tell them you’ll be walking them to school every day! Most kids will be willing to take the test to claim their independence.
Tip #4: Dry run
Once your kids prove they know the rules in theory, give them an opportunity to put them into practice. Walk or bike with them along their route and let them take the lead. Ask them to point out safety hazards and tell you why they are stopping, going, turning, signaling, etc. Once you can see them putting the safety principles into action, you know they understand how to conduct themselves on the route to and from school.
Tip #5: Gearing up
If your kids are going to be biking to school, it’s imperative that they have the proper equipment. A bona fide bike helmet (NOT a sports helmet), knee and elbow pads and reflectors are a must for any child on a bike. Make sure your children know how to wear their helmet and pads properly. Kids who are walking should always wear reflective, light-colored clothing if they’ll be out when it’s dark. Also, make sure your children’s shoes are sensible enough to allow them to walk comfortably.
Walking and biking to school will help your kids stay fit, trim and happy. Now that you know how to help keep them safe, it’ll be much easier to release them into the neighborhood, prepared to get the most out of their active, open-air commute to school.