Back-to-School Briefs


The Got Milk? campaign has been a huge hit with kids, many of whom are collecting the amusing magazine ads and taping them to their bedroom walls alongside Britney Spears and 'N Sync. But are the ads getting them to drink enough milk? Here are guidelines for parents from the National Academy of Sciences: Children ages one to three should consume 500 mg of calcium per day, the equivalent of three six-ounce servings of milk or milk-group foods. Children ages four to eight should be getting 800 mg of calcium daily, which is the equivalent of nearly three glasses of milk. Teens ages nine to eighteen need even more--1,200 mg of calcium daily, which translates into four glasses of milk or milk-group foods. For a free brochure about your teenager's calcium needs, call 1-800-WHY-MILK and ask for "Clueless about Calcium."



If your child's back-to-school plans include a return to private music instruction, give the Minnesota Music Teachers Association (MMTA) a call. The MMTA, an organization of more than eight hundred teachers committed to the development of musical performance and creativity, now offers a directory of certified music instructors in your neighborhood or city. Organization members are located throughout the state; teachers who specialize in preschool music lessons are also available. Call (651) 429-9479 for a list of teachers, or visit the MMTA Web site at:



If you'll be leaving your child home alone after school this year, here are some tips to make that separation as safe as possible:

* Start by leaving the house for a short time. Give your child specific directions to follow and see how he does. If this experiment works, try leaving for longer periods of time and with more directions.

* Outline specific rules about using the telephone, allowing friends in the house, using appliances, leaving the house and playing outside, watching television, and eating snacks.

* Think carefully about what you want your child to say when a stranger calls or knocks on the door. Role-play what to do in questionable situations.

* Post important phone numbers, such as workplaces, doctors and neighbors, near the phone. Make sure your child knows when and how to call 9-1-1.

* Set up emergency plans to guide your child through problems and accidents, including information on where he can go for help. Make sure he knows where to go if there is a severe weather warning, what to do if he gets injured or if he loses his key.

* Detail what he can do while home--such as homework and chores. Make a list of acceptable activities that your child can do while you're gone.

* Arrange for him to call you or another adult as soon as he gets home.

* Establish your schedule, so he'll know when you'll be home. Most experts recommend limiting children's time alone to about an hour a day.

--Susan Youngwood



Some were chasing balls into the middle of the street. Others crossed between cars midblock, instead of at the corner. Every year, cars strike and kill about 1,800 children under the age of nine. "Kids have no concept of danger," says traffic safety officer Bill Wolfe. "They think cartoons are the reality--that if you are run over by a truck, you bounce right back." Wolfe notes that children have no peripheral vision until they turn about seven; in addition, "they often don't hear what doesn't interest them. They'd rather hear the candy-bar wrapper opening than the sound of an engine."

To keep your kids safe this school year, consider these safety tips:

* Teach your kids to stop before the edge of the sidewalk at all times.

* If riding the school bus, never run to or from the bus; stand back from the curb; wait for the driver's signal before crossing; and always cross at least ten feet in front of the bus.

* Teach your kids to stop at driveways, alleys, and areas without curbs.

* Make sure kids know the difference between parked and moving cars. Play a game of "I spy" with younger kids. Say "I spy something green and it's parked" and "I spy something red and it's moving" and have the child point out the cars.

Explain that they should never cross between parked cars, because the cars block their view of oncoming traffic--and drivers can't see them.

* Playing around railway crossings can be deadly. Visit a rail crossing and stop about a car length from the edge of the closest rail. Stop, look, and listen for a train coming in either direction. Explain what happens to the lights, bells, and gates when a train is coming. If no train comes, pretend one is passing. When crossing, always step over the rails--a child's foot could easily become wedged in the groove.

--Susan Youngwood
(Sources: "Kidestrians," a Canadian safety program, and the National School Bus Service.)



Sure, five- and six-year-olds suffer plenty of butterflies as they board the school bus for the very first time. But older children head back to school with knots in their stomachs, too. A recent survey of middle-schoolers reveals some of their most common concerns, with some suggestions for how to help them move ahead with confidence:

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