It’s that time of the year when the aroma of pumpkin spice fills crisp autumn air. It’s also the time that kids start to return to school! As elementary school, secondary school, and universities/colleges begin their terms, we at Neighbourhood Watch London will be focusing on Back to School Safety.
For families with younger kids, going back to school means that it’s harder to find before and after school supervision. Some families might be getting to the point where their kids are now ready to supervise themselves or even their younger siblings. With milestones such as these, parents need to make sure that their families will be prepared so that everyone starts their school year safely.
Getting to and from school
Young children typically need to be accompanied to and from school. It’s never too early to start prompting children to pay attention to the route to and from school by having them spot landmarks to help guide them home. This is handy in case the children somehow end up on their way home without supervision. When children are old enough to take themselves to school, they will be able to do so and know their route confidently.
Children that travel to and from school on their own should learn the route and know where to find friendly homes in the case of an emergency. Also, it’s a good idea to remind kids about road safety. Make sure they know to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street, and to not run as darting onto the road gives cars less time to react.
Children being home alone before/after school
What’s an appropriate age to leave a child home alone?
The answer to this question has a lot of variables. Things to consider:
- The age and maturity of the child
- How readily available a parent or other guardian can be accessed by phone
- How long the child would be alone for
The Canada Safety Council recommends that children no child under the age of 10 years should be left home alone.1
It is widely viewed that children at the age of 10 are able to be responsible for themselves for a couple of hours. It is recommended that they are only responsible for themselves and not for other children. Children 12 and up are seen as more responsible and able to care for one or two other children, but should not be expected to cook for, clean the house, or bathe other children.
How to ensure safety when home alone
If children are going to be alone, it is recommended that:
- There is an easily accessible first aid kit
- Children take a first aid course so that they are able to use a first aid kit effectively and provide first aid care
- Keep a list of important numbers where the child can find it
- Consider a home monitoring system
- Provide safe and healthy snacks for the child to eat
Some courses that would be beneficial to a child staying home alone are Saint John Ambulance’s Home Alone Program, the Red Cross’ Babysitting Program, and any sort of First Aid Courses. If, for some reason, your child isn’t excited about spending a weekend learning how to be safe, encourage a sibling or friend to go with them.
How to monitor kids that are home alone
A home monitoring system is useful for alerting you for when your child arrives home. Check out this list of reviews for the 5 Best Home Security Systems & Alarms in Ontario by Safeties. Aside from alerting you when your child enters the house, the home security system can help provide additional home security.
FindFriends is a free tool that is helpful for keeping track of your children’s whereabouts. FindFriends is a free app available on Apple smartphones – an Android alternative would be Find My Friends - which allows you to keep track of people that permit you to view their location. There is a feature on FindFriends that allows you to set up an alert for when a person leaves or arrives from certain locations. Parents could use this tool to receive an alert for when their children leave school and then again when they arrive home.
Using these tips will help prepare your family to get back to school as safely as possible!
1"Preparation and Communication the Key for Children Home Alone." Canada Safety Council. April 2015. Web.