The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are coming to an end and kids are starting to return to school for another year of studies. Classroom supplies and new outfits have been bought, before- and after-school care arranged, bedtimes reinstituted. Everything’s ready, right?
Before sending the little ones off to learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic, however, it may be a good idea to take a quick safety check. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of recent recalls and safety concerns related to kids going back to school. A quick check to make sure everything is good will help your kids learn safely and securely in the upcoming school year.
Do your kids take a bus to school? If so, you might want to check with the bus depot to make sure that their bus isn’t one of the several school bus recalls that have taken place this year. These recalls involved a few thousand buses from several different makers, including:
- Nearly 3,000 Blue Bird Vision school buses that were leaking propane, resulting in a potential fire hazard.
- About 1,700 Navistar school buses that had inadequate reflective tape around emergency hatches, potentially making it harder for kids (and adults!) to escape in case of an emergency.
- A handful of additional Navistar buses in which integrated child seats could become detached from the main part of the seat during a crash.
It should be noted that these recalls only reflect a very small number of the buses that are in operation. The American School Bus Council estimates that about 480,000 school buses carry children to school every day, meaning that the recalls listed above represent less than 1% of the buses driving our kids around. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to just check in and make sure everything is safe!
Of course, buses aren’t the only way to get to school. If you’re one of the cool parents who recently got your child a hoverboard for a birthday or holiday, you might want to think twice before letting him or her “hover” to school. Earlier this year, ten manufacturers and retailers recalled more than half a million hoverboards – also known as “self-balancing scooters” – due to a propensity for their batteries to overheat and catch on fire. (And of course, hoverboards might not be welcome on school property anyway, so be sure to check with the principal if you do let your child “hover” to school.)
Finally, if you drive your kids to school, make sure your own vehicle is up on its inspection. If there are any outstanding recalls, it’s a good idea to get those taken care of immediately. You can always search for your make and model using our handy search, or you can check for recalls tied to your vehicle’s VIN at SaferCar.gov.
Kids tend not to worry too much about the food they eat. If it tastes good (or at least good enough), it goes in their mouth. So as parents and caregivers, we need to watch out for them.
When it comes to buying school lunches, the most important thing is talk to your kids about healthy eating. For example, it’s not okay to use school lunch money to buy cookies and chocolate milk instead of a well-balanced meal. (I know from personal experience that there are kids out there who do this…I used to be one of them….) Explaining to them the benefits of a healthy meal can go a long way. Giving them examples of healthy foods at breakfast and dinner can go an even longer way to helping kids make smart, healthy choices when you’re not around.
That’s not to say that the meals kids eat at school might not have problems. Earlier this summer, Integrated Food Service – a large national manufacturer of foods for school lunches – had to recall a large number of meals for potential Listeria contamination. These meals were distributed directly to schools, and are not something that would have shown up on store shelves, making it likely that many parents might be unaware of the problem. The recall page on the company’s website lists schools affected from California to Connecticut, and many states in-between.
If your child brings lunch to school, you have a little more control, but there is also potential to make mistakes. A few things to keep in mind when packing that brown bag or licensed-character lunchbox.
Temperature: Opt for foods that don’t need to stay hot or cold. Perishable food kept in the temperature “Danger Zone” (40ºF – 140ºF) can cause sickness.
Use a thermos or well-insulated container to help the food maintain an appropriate temperature.
If you pack lunch the night before, keep it in the fridge overnight.
Frozen juice boxes can do double duty as freezer packs!
Cleanup: Napkins are a good idea, but you might also want to include a disposable wipe to help with any mess afterward. Any disposable items, such as paper bags or food packaging, should be discarded immediately, so as not to contaminate other food or surfaces.
Check the Packaging: Make sure the items that go into the lunch don’t come from expired or recalled food items. While I can’t check expiration dates for you, I can provide a list of some recently recalled items that might find their way into a school lunch:
- Smoked Supreme Nut Mix, from The Fresh Market
- Dried blueberries, from Meduri Farms
- GOLEAN Snack Bars and Bear Naked Granola, from Kashi
- Keebler Animals Crackers, from Armour Snackmaker
- Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos
- Combos in a variety of flavors
- Various snack foods from Kellogg’s
This is not an exhaustive list, of course. You can browse or search our recalls to find more information about these and other recent lunch-related food recalls.
Oh, and don’t just check food. Some products that children might take to school, like this insulated kid’s water bottle from L.L. Bean, have been recalled as well.
Other Safety Concerns
Of course, there are other safety concerns related to heading back to school.
Are your kids playing sports or involved in other extracurricular activities that could cause injury? Make sure they have the proper protective gear that has been inspected and approved by a reliable third-party testing agency.
Do your kids bring their phones with them everywhere they go? Phones are good to have in an emergency – but using them all the time can also lead to poor posture and other bad habits that could cause neck pain or other detrimental effects.
Are their backpacks overloaded? Make sure the straps fit properly, and explain why it’s better to leave some of their books in their lockers rather than trying to carry everything around with them all day.