Updated: Feb 26
Whether your child is heading back to school for in-person learning, a mix of in-person and online learning, or virtual learning, it’s essential to teach them how to stay safe, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Our emergency preparedness, safety, and security experts created a list of 10 tips for back to school safety during COVID-19:
1. Teach children how to wear a mask properly
Give children time to get used to wearing a mask for prolonged periods. Children learn best by watching their caregivers, and the Inquirer says, “The best way to teach a child to wear a mask is to set a good example — wear your own mask when out in public and don’t complain. Let your child choose a mask and practice wearing it at home, for instance, while watching a favorite television show.” Explain the importance of mask-wearing in an age-appropriate manner and let children know that they help stop the spread of germs when they are wearing a mask.
2. Review and practice new safety and hygiene protocols
Since the onset of COVID-19, taking preventative health and safety measures has never been more critical. Although we’ve been teaching our children to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, sneeze into the crook of their arm, social distance at least six feet, and not to share toys with their peers, it’s an excellent idea to re-teach these concepts and practice them with children before and during the first month of school.
3. If your child is symptomatic, keep her home and call your pediatrician right away
The CDC says that these are the most common symptoms of COVID-19 in children:
Nasal congestion or rhinorrhea
New loss of taste or smell
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Nausea or vomiting
Poor appetite or poor feeding
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, keep her home and away from other family members in your house. Call your pediatrician instead of visiting an urgent care clinic, which could cause unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus. For returning to school or child care, the CDC says, “A negative test or doctor’s note should not be required for return to school upon completion of the 10 days of isolation with the improvement of symptoms.”
4. Establish a healthy routine
Many children are learning virtually, or through a hybrid model this school year, so it’s essential for families to establish healthy routines to keep children mentally and physically well:
Keep the same bedtime and wake up time as if your child was physically going to school
Have children brush their teeth, get dressed and wash up as if they were attending school
Keep mealtimes the same
Establish set times for recess or free play
Engage in activities that encourage exercise and physical fitness
Maintain a healthy and nutritious diet
Set aside time to check on your child’s mental health and wellbeing
Limit distressing television news stories
5. Teach children about bullying and internet safety
Because most children won’t be fully monitored online during the day, the risk of cyberbullying increases. Safewise says, “Understand what cyberbullying is, where and how it happens, and how to spot it. Explain that online bullies can act friendly at first and encourage your child to be on the lookout for any interactions that make them feel bad, scared, or sad.” Parents should also go an extra step and download software that can help identify cyberbullying. “Place the computer in a common room and monitor all screen time. Use a shared email account, and if you let kids interact on social media, make sure you have full access to manage their accounts. Parental control software is another great way to stay in the know,” Safewise suggests.
6. Don’t forget about traffic safety
Whether or not your child is heading back to school, it’s important not to let your guard down and to continue to obey traffic laws. Teach children:
To use sidewalks or crosswalks, and follow all traffic signals for safety
Bus safety: getting on and off the bus, walking at least ten feet in front of the bus, and avoiding blind spots
Avoid distracted walking or bike riding
Take safe, visible routes to school
Never talk to strangers
Walk or bike together in groups
Always wear a helmet if biking to school
Never play behind a parked vehicle in the driveway or the street
Place all toys to the side of the driveway and away from a vehicle’s blind spot
7. Review newly-implemented safety protocols with your child care program
Between the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest, soaring gun sales, massive unemployment, social isolation, depression, and anxiety, child care programs have many worries. Be sure to check your child care program’s parent handbook and emergency plan for new safety updates. Child care providers should be reaching parents through text, email, phone, and social media, as health and safety updates are liable to change day-by-day.
Parents should expect:
New pick up and drop off policies
Enhanced building security
Limited access to the building
More frequent letters home/updates about the coronavirus
Cleaning and hygiene expectations
8. Maintain healthy and clean environments at home and in your vehicle
Keeping your house and car clean, organized, and stocked up with hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves, and masks will make pick up and drop off much more manageable for child care providers. Designate spots in your home for storing PPE and supplies, clean and dirty masks, backpacks, and clothing. Make getting ready in the morning fun for children by singing their favorite songs while putting on masks and hand washing or sanitizing.
9. Stay up-to-date on your child’s immunizations
While many pediatrician offices may have been closed or operating at a limited capacity, children must visit their doctor for routine checkups, immunizations, and this year’s flu shot. Dr. Katie Lockwood, a pediatrician at CHOP Primary Care South Philadelphia, says, “We don’t want the [diseases] we can protect ourselves against, like measles, to become another thing we’re up against. One pandemic at a time is enough.”
10. Choose Kindness
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented time in our history. Just know that we’re all doing our best, and it’s ok not to have it all together all the time. Now is the time to be extra kind to others and to show empathy for our children, essential workers, child care providers, parents, and families.
Helpful Resources for Heading Back to School During COVID-19 Coronavirus:
HiMama: Guide to Reopening a Childcare Center During COVID-19
For Teachers: WHYY and PBS have curated FREE, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more.
Kangarootime: Preparing for a Coronavirus Outbreak at Your Center
Scholastic: Back-to-School Central Resources Hub
The Institute for Childhood Preparedness: Offers a full suite of online training courses for child care programs, K-12 schools, Head Start programs, after school programs, Government facilities, camps, and Houses of Worship. Classes range from COVID-19 coronavirus in English and Spanish to emergency preparedness, safety, and security.
Book an online Zoom session with our emergency preparedness and pandemic preparedness experts, or register for our new hybrid training courses: online training followed by in-person practical training sessions. Schedule training with us today!
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