First Day of School

Is your child ready for his first day of school

As you and your child prepare for the first day of the new school year, use this checklist to help make sure you have taken care of the necessary tasks, learned the information you need and are both ready for the first day of school.

  • Caring for Your School-Age Child : Ages 5 to 12Is your child registered? (If they attended the same school the previous school year, they should already be registered.)
  • When is the first day of school?
  • What time does school start?
  • How is your child going to get to school? If your child is biking, does he know the school rules for bicycles? If they are walking for the first time, with whom will they walk? Have you reviewed safety precautions with them, regarding traffic and strangers? Check out our safety checklist to learn more about how to educate your child for safety on the go.
  • Does your child know their teacher’s name?
  • What will their daily schedule be like?
  • Will they need to bring a snack? What kinds of snacks are allowed and encouraged? Do they need to bring something to drink, or can they buy something? Will water be available?
  • What time is lunch? Can your child buy it at school, and how much will it cost?
  • What clothes will your child need to wear? Are there any restrictions on what can be worn? Will they need a different set of clothes for physical education or art classes?
  • Does your child need to bring pencils, paper, notebooks and other supplies? (Often, the teacher will announce these requirements on the first day.) Does your child have something in which to carry his books and supplies back and forth to school? Will they have a place (besides their desk) to keep their things at school?
  • Have you filled out all health forms or emergency contact forms that have been sent home?
  • Have any new health problems developed in your child over the summer that will affect his school day? Does the school nurse know about this condition, or is an appointment set up to discuss it?
  • If your child will need to take medication at school on the first day, have arrangements been made for this?
  • Does your youngster know where they are going after school (e.g. home, babysitter)? Do they know how they will get there? If you will not be there when they arrive, do they know who will be responsible for them, what the rules are and how to get help in an emergency?
  • Does your child have your work and home telephone numbers in their backpack?


As you help your child get ready for the new school year, look back on your own school days at your youngster’s grade level. If you had some negative experiences, make certain you do not project them onto your own child. For example, the mother of a third-grader reflected upon her own year in the third grade and recalled having problems with reading that her teacher confused with “laziness” and “motivation problems.” The mother realized that because of her own experience, she had been passing negative expectations on to her child. When she recognized the message she was conveying, she made an extra effort to put her old feelings aside and approach her youngster’s situation afresh and optimistically.

Expectations can be a powerful influence on the kind of school experience your child has. Even when they are communicated in casual conversations, they can have a significant effect on your child’s outlook. Past experiences can also influence a child’s outlook and expectations. While he may have had some problems in the previous year, you and he should try to approach the new school year with a clean slate and a positive attitude.

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Leaving Kids Home Alone

When is it okay to begin leaving your child at home alone? The answer really is different for every child. In general, children under 10 should not be left on their own, and babies and younger children should not be left alone even for a few minutes. Before leaving your kids at home alone, make sure that they are mature enough to be on their own (even if only for a few hours).

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Is your child at least 10 years old?
    NOTE: Please check local laws to be certain your state has not set a higher age limit for children staying home alone.
  • Does your child feel at all frightened or apprehensive about staying home alone?
  • Does your child follow your instructions and your rules?
  • Can you count on your child to tell you the truth?
  • Can your child be counted on to stay clear-headed in an unexpected or emergency situation?
  • Can your child calmly dial 911, give their full name (and yours), street address and phone number, and explain the situation?

You might feel most comfortable starting out with short trial runs, leaving your child home alone for 15 minutes or so and gradually increasing the amount of time your child spends alone. Take it slowly, staying within the comfort level of both you and your child.

Here are some measures you can take that will help to protect your kids even when you are not around:

  • Let your kids know exactly what you expect of them – discuss your house rules.
  • Make sure you have a list of important numbers where your child can find it. Check out our helpful list, print it and post it on the fridge.
  • Review basic safety rules on a regular basis.
  • Discuss how to respond in the event of an emergency situation, and role play responses.
  • You might like your child to attend a Latchkey Kids Program along with a Basic First Aid Course. Check you local hospitals, YMCA or library to learn about programs in your area.
  • Explain that you expect your child to come straight home from school, and to call you if there is any delay.
  • Remind your child to never accept a ride.
  • Ask your child to call you or a trusted neighbor as soon as he gets home from school.
  • Instruct your child not to enter your house if the door is open, unlocked, or if anything seems unusual.
  • Remind your child not to answer the door (without your prior approval) – Install a peephole at his eye level.
  • Instruct your child that he should never let someone at the door or on the phone know he is alone.
  • Be sure you feel that your child can comfortably handle using the telephone, operate the security system/door, and can safely use any appliances they might be using after school.
  • Be sure you have a working fire extinguisher and your child knows how to operate it (and you have smoke detectors with fresh batteries appropriately placed throughout your house.)
  • Plan escape routes and meeting place outside your home in case of fire.
  • Ask that your child let you know immediately if anything makes them uncomfortable or frightened.