Written by Grove Collaborative

Back-to-school guide: how to keep your kids safe

Last Updated: October 1, 2020

Back to school this year sure doesn’t mean back to business as usual. If your child’s going to be attending on-site, you’ll want to explore new routines.

School districts across the country are preparing to reopen this fall for in-person learning and we’re all getting ready. While you can’t control every (mostly) distanced interaction during your child’s school day, or block every potential exposure to COVID-19, you can reduce the chances of the virus being carried back into your household. We’ve pulled together some helpful tips from The Center for Disease and Control’s checklists to get you started. Want more info? Women's Voices for the Earth has put together a toolkit for talking to your child's school about safer disinfectants.

Prepping your child for a return to school

Back to school is primed to be a challenging time for your child (and you!), but you can help make it feel a little more routine with repetition. Depending on your child’s age and potential discomfort around the new rules, “playing school” a few times can help normalize certain behaviors before they go back.

Mask practice

Work with your child to practice wearing a mask as well as putting on and taking off a mask without touching the cloth. Plan where to place it during snack or lunch, such as a labeled resealable container or disposable paper bag. Discuss why wearing a cloth face covering protects other people from getting sick.

Meal prep

Serve a snack or lunch where they have to remove their mask and place it somewhere safe and clean. Consider asking the following questions: “How can we take off our masks without touching the fabric?” “Where can we put our mask somewhere safe?”

Rule following

Explore how they might see someone without a face covering, so your child is prepared if they witness a child or adult “breaking the rule.” Explain what they might do in the following situations: “Your friend wants to hug you. What can you nicely say to help keep germs away?” “If your mask feels itchy or uncomfortable, what can you do?”

Role play

Try working through different scenarios: “You’re so excited to see your friend! How can you say hi or show how happy you are without touching?” Pretend it’s after school and they’re coming into the house with their backpack, art projects, jacket, etc. “Can you show me where we put our things?” “How do we wash our hands?”

Grove Tip

Consider a flu shot

Get your child up to date on all recommended vaccines. Current advice includes all school-aged children getting this year’s influenza (flu) vaccine, as medical experts do not yet know if being co-infected with COVID-19 and the flu will result in a more severe viral reaction.

Back to school routine

Before school

The best defense, as they say, is a good offense. First, check your child for signs of coronavirus. Children with COVID-19 may exhibit symptoms different from the ones you’ve heard listed for adults, ranging from cough to runny nose to fever to gastrointestinal issues including nausea and/or vomiting. If your child exhibits symptoms, contact your pediatrician for guidance. If your child is healthy, gear up your kiddo each day for sanitary success by bringing dedicated items to school:

  • A dedicated (not to be shared), labeled, reusable water bottle
  • An extra face covering (or two) with their name written inside
  • A lanyard or container like a disposable paper lunch bag in which they can safely place their mask during snack or other meals
  • Hand wipes, hand spray, or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, depending on your child’s age. Be sure to check with the FDA recalled products list to ensure your sanitizer does not contain toxic methanol.

Grove Tip

Emphasize handwashing

It’s never too late to go over proper hand washing techniques (at least 20 seconds with soap, covering all parts of the hand up to the wrist and in between fingers). Emphasize hand washing before and after eating, touching items in public spaces, and before and after adjusting their face covering.

Read our guide

During school

Make sure to talk to your child about how things may be different this year to keep germs at bay, so he or she understands what to expect during the school day.

  • Classes might look and feel different, with desks spaced far apart and changes to things like free play, circle time, and sharing.
  • Teachers may act different, like standing further away, not giving high fives, etc.
  • Activities may be different, like where lunch is eaten and what games are allowed at recess.
  • Friendships might include new rules, like reminders for everyone to keep their hands and bodies to themselves.

Grove Tip

Watch for changes

The new rules and routines may trigger some behavioral changes in your child. Keep an eye out for more crying or irritation than usual, excessive worry or sadness, changes in their eating or sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. These can be signs of stress and anxiety and warrant a call to your pediatrician.

After school

In addition to arming your kiddo with ways to stay safer, you’ll want to implement additional cleaning and disinfecting plans for your home. Our suggestions include:

  • Remove shoes at designated area
  • Hang up jacket in designated area
  • Hang up backpack: Wipe down backpacks and school bags with disinfectant wipes and let air dry. Remove water bottle and any lunch items and place them directly in sink or dishwasher.
  • Hang up mask: Designate a drop spot for your child’s face covering so it can be washed daily/switched out with fresh coverings. Regularly inspect cloth face coverings to ensure they are not worn or damaged. Wash masks according to the material. When in doubt, hand wash in warm soapy water.
  • Go straight to handwashing.

Shop back-to-school essentials

Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's stay healthy at home collection for the cleaning tools, sanitizers, masks, and immunity boosters to keep your family happy and healthy.

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