Tag Archives: back to school

Should You Encourage Your Kids to Bike to School?

Should You Encourage Your Kids to Bike to School?

Kids are steadily heading back to school across the country, if not now, soon. That means huge crowds of cars as parents hurry to get their children to class on time. These days relatively few kids get themselves to school, and I think that’s a shame. What if more parents encouraged their kids to walk or bike to school, as used to be normal?

I’m a big fan of kids getting to school on their own. My older two walk to school. It’s easy, as we’re less than a quarter mile from the school. Only risky part is crossing the street to the school with all the parents driving in to drop their kids off.

Close as we are, they don’t need to ride bikes there. I don’t mind if they do. They’d have to be extra careful as they got close to the school, maneuvering around all the people who parked in the neighborhood and are now walking onto school property. It gets very crowded around the parking lot, and bicycles have to be walked at that point.

But how do you decide if it’s the right choice for your kids to ride their bikes to school? It’s healthier for them than riding in the car and better for the environment, but is it safe? Here are some points for you to consider.

School Rules

If your child’s school says they’re too young to ride to school, odds are you aren’t going to let him or her ride a bike to school. Some parents do take on this battle (can the school really say what your child does off campus outside school hours?), but for many it’s simpler to go with the rules set by the school so the bike can stay at the school during the day.

You also need to know where the bike will stay during the day. Our school has a fenced off bike rack where kids can lock their bikes up for the day. I’ve noticed that a lot of kids don’t even bother locking up their bikes beyond putting it in the bike rack. Personally, I’d tell kids to lock up their bikes even so, but I have to admit it doesn’t seem to have been a problem.

Bike Riding Ability

Is your child good enough on his or her bike to ride to school and deal with the crowds upon arrival? Schools often want kids off the bike once they get on campus – things are just too crowded for a bicycle to be ridden safely. You not only want your child riding the bike well enough to deal with any traffic on the way to school, you want your child able to walk their bike without bumping into other people, and the sense to know when it’s time to get off the bike and walk it.

Street Safety

Are you in a situation where you child could ride to school safely? Is the neighborhood generally safe? Are there any streets you don’t want your child riding on that can’t be avoided on the way to school? Does your child watch out for cars as they ride?

Appropriate Safety Gear

Does your child’s bike helmet fit properly or is it time for a new one? Your child should know how to put it on correctly and agree to always keep the straps fastened while riding. I’ve seen lots of kids riding with bike helmet on but unfastened, and that’s not going to help in an accident.

A Well Maintained Bike

Be sure your child’s bike is in good condition for riding. Brakes work, tires well inflated, things like that. While a bike can develop a problem on the way, you want to minimize the chances for that to happen.

It should also be the right size for your child. Not so tall that your child has trouble touching the ground when stopped, not so short that it’s uncomfortable to ride.

A Plan For Problems

Sometimes stuff happens when kids are out on their own. Make sure they know what to do about flat tires, crashes and so forth. You can decide if it’s worth it to have your child carry a cell phone (pay attention to school rules about cell phones) or if there are enough options for your child to get help if it’s needed on the way.

20 Healthy School Lunch Ideas For Kids

20 Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Kids

School is starting today here, and that means I have to think about what my kids will eat for lunch at school again. They aren’t much on cafeteria lunches – unless it’s Friday, which is pizza day. Overall, however, I prefer that they bring lunch so I know they’re getting good food they like. Our school isn’t too bad on that front; they have a small salad bar in the cafeteria, but I like providing healthy options myself.

Not all these suggestions are entire lunches on their own. Think about what it takes to make a balanced lunch that your child will eat. There’s little point to pushing foods your kids won’t eat – it’s all too easy for children to throw out foods that don’t appeal to them or their friends. Also remember that some ingredients are healthier than others, such as whole grain versus white breads.

1. Homemade pizza

Homemade pizza can be about as healthy as you choose to make it. A tortilla makes a quick, thin crust, and from there it’s up to you to make it good.

2. Vegetables with hummus

Fresh vegetables with hummus can be very satisfying in a lunchbox. A little feta cheese is a nice addition if your kids like it.

3. Peanut butter apples or celery

Peanut butter with apples or celery is something of a classic. It makes a nice switch from your standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

4. Copycat Lunchables

Take a look at any Lunchables or similar that your child loves. Can you make something similar but a bit healthier? Do it well and your kids will love it.

5. Homemade soup

Homemade soup is wonderful when the weather cools off. Pick one your kids love and put it in a thermos. One of my kids loves homemade soups, but the other is demands the canned stuff.

6. Hard boiled egg

A hard boiled egg is a simple way to get protein into your child’s lunch.

7. Couscous salad

Combine cooked couscous with some vegetables, maybe some dried fruit or feta, and you have a nice couscous salad. You can use quinoa rather than couscous if you prefer.

8. Wraps

A wrap with a good quality lunch meat, some cheese, spinach or whatever else your child will enjoy makes a good lunch. Look for something better than the standard processed lunch meats.

9. Yogurt

Skip the yogurts aimed at kids, especially the ones in those plastic tubes. They usually have far too much sugar and artificial colorings. Look for Greek yogurt or other live culture yogurts with real fruit for flavoring. Make a parfait with some granola and fruit to make it more interesting.

10. Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

For those mornings you’re running a little behind, you can always count on the classics. Pick a healthy bread if your kids will eat it. You may want to consider using a fruit spread rather than jelly to cut down on sugar too. But the real beauty of this is that you can make several ahead of time and freeze until you need them in a lunchbox.

11. Quinoa and black beans

An improvement, in my opinion, on rice and beans, but made much the same way.

12. Fresh fruit

Not a lunch in itself, but a wonderful addition to satisfy that urge to have something sweet at lunchtime.

13. Whole grain waffles

Give your kids a surprise with waffles for breakfast. A nut butter spread will help make it more filling, along with some jelly or a fruit topping.

14. Salad

You can have a salad be a side dish or bring it up to a main dish with some chicken or other protein. Watch how much salad dressing you include, as it’s easy to go overboard. Feta and dried cranberries go well in many salads.

15. Pita sandwiches

If your kids are bored with regular sandwiches, switch to pita bread. Many love pita bread, and you can make most of your regular sandwiches in it.

16. Nuts

You may have to check school rules on this one, as nut allergies have led some schools to ban certain nuts.

17. Sliced vegetables

What veggies do your kids like. My youngest has a big thing for bell pepper, and all my kids love carrots. Slice up your kids’ favorite vegetables for a great addition to their lunch.

18. Frittata

Use muffin pans to make these frittatas the right size for school lunches. Line your muffin pan if you want to make things simple, or use a cooking spray so these come out easily after cooking. Lightly saute whatever vegetables you want to add. Beat the eggs and add in the vegetables and maybe some cheese. Scoop into muffin pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until done.

19. Burritos

Make burritos with beans and cheese, or add other ingredients to delight your children. A mild salsa can really bring out the flavor.

20. Leftovers

What did you have for dinner last night? Will it make a good lunch as is, or could it be made into sandwiches?

Can School Uniforms Be Eco Friendly?

Can School Uniforms Be Eco Friendly?

Kids in some areas are heading back to school already. Mine have about a week left until school starts, so it’s uniform shopping time. My kids warned me at the end of the last school year that they would need new this year, as both were outgrowing what they have now. They thought I would start shopping right away, but no way. I waited because there’s no point in risking a summer growth spurt.

The problem with school uniforms is that you have to buy particular fabrics. My kids’ school actually specified a particular polyester/cotton mix on the pants at first just to make sure parents really understood that they’re serious about the no denim, corduroy, etc. rule. They did clarify it when parents protested that ruling on the exact mix (60/40) was overkill. Still, it brings up the point – can your child’s school uniform be eco friendly?

School Uniform Advantages

School uniforms do have some advantages, environmentally speaking, even if they aren’t made from ideal fabrics. You don’t have to buy a lot of school uniforms, just enough for your kids to wash between wearings. Yes, I make my kids wash their own uniforms; it’s good laundry practice. Buying a few uniforms plus clothes for weekends and holidays can save a lot of money and reduce your children’s overall wardrobe needs.

Schools can also hold used uniform sales, which allows you to keep things even more eco friendly. You can buy uniforms previously owned by other students for less money, rather than spending on new ones. Our school has parents donate used uniforms and uses the sale as a PTA fundraiser.

And of course if you have more than one child you can have them hand uniforms down. I don’t do this between my son and daughter – the difference between girl and boy clothes would make them too self conscious, even though the differences in the uniforms is pretty small. My daughter’s uniforms sometimes get passed on to a friend, but only if they survive my daughter’s not so gentle use. I like handing them down directly rather than going through the school’s sale because I know a few friends have really tight financial situations.

School Uniform Disadvantages

The only eco disadvantage I can think of for school uniforms is the material. Can’t really get away from polyester when it’s mandated in the dress code.

Think About Where You Shop

If you’re buying new school uniforms, think about where you’re buying them. Look for stores that pay attention to the condition workers have when making clothes for their company. Pay attention to clothing quality so you won’t have to replace clothes that wear out too quickly.

Land’s End, for example, has sustainability programs in place, and has a list of how they comply with their Global Compliance Program to avoid using child labor, slave labor, etc. JC Penney does as well.  Justice/Brothers (Tween Brands) also lists how they maintain supply chain transparency.  These are the ones I’ve peeked at so far. A part of what each of these companies list on their sites is required by the State of California, and what I don’t know yet is how effective these are. After all, even Walmart states they have a focus on global responsibility.

How to Make School Lunches Your Child Will Eat

Many parents these days are concerned with the quality of lunches provided by public schools. To put it mildly, many schools offer extremely unhealthy foods for lunch. As parents who want their kids to eat better, how can you help them?

Packing a healthy lunch for your child is one of the simplest things you can do to help them eat better. The challenge is making a lunch they’re more likely to eat than to trade away to friends.

Pay Attention to Their Likes

The first thing to do is know what your child likes to eat. This may change from year to year and even in the middle of the school year. Keep talking to your kids about what they like to eat for lunch and find healthy ways to provide that.

School lunch packing is not the best time to experiment or challenge your child’s food preferences. It’s easy for them to trade away unliked foods, or even to just throw it away uneaten. Push their interests at home where you can see the results.


Sometimes leftovers are great for lunches. You may need to provide a thermos to keep the food warm, but other leftovers taste great cold.

If there’s a meal your kids really love, make extras that you can separate into easy lunches and freeze. You can save excess for dinners for the whole family as well, of course. Providing them with favorite home cooked meals to eat at school may increase the chances that your child will eat what you’ve given them.


Don’t stick to the traditional sandwiches for every meal. Wraps are a great alternative, so long as you pick healthy whole grain tortillas, not just white flour tortillas.

Wraps are easy to make. You want to cover most of the tortilla, but leave a little distance from the edges to keep things neat. Lunch meats, vegetables and spreads work well. Mix them up and find out which your kids love the most. Do let your kids try hummus sometime, first at home, but if they like it, hummus is a great wrap ingredient.

Healthy Sides

Know what your kids love in terms of fruits and vegetables. Most will have a few favorites. Try to provide these in their school lunches.

My kids love bell peppers and cucumbers, for example. Put these in their lunch and they’ll usually be eaten.

Keep it Simple

Kids don’t need a feast at lunchtime. They need simple, filling foods and not a big selection. They’re usually as interested in chatting with their friends as they are in eating their food. Sometimes more interested in chatting with their friends. Give them too many choices and a lot of it will end up in the trash.

Dessert Doesn’t Have to Mean Sugar

Kids love getting a dessert item in their lunches. An occasional cookie or other treat isn’t going to ruin them either. But the dessert doesn’t have to be cookies or candy.

Berries work great. Granola bars usually have a lot of sugar, but have other healthy ingredients. Try to balance sweetness with good for your kids.

Variety May Not Be the Spice of Life

Don’t feel bad if you’re packing the same lunch over and over. Most kids like consistency. If they complain, that’s the time to mix things up.

Keeping Back to School Eco Friendly

It’s time to start thinking about the start of the school year. In my area it’s coming up fast, less than a month away.

Now is the time that stores start offering school supplies in earnest and parents respond. Much of it cannot be helped, as schools often provide lists of supplies your children will need for the classroom. Then there are clothes, backpacks and so forth that need to be ready for school.

It can be pretty bad from an environmental perspective. So many things to buy. So many choices that really aren’t doing the environment any favors.

Review What You Have

Take a good look at the start of each school year and see what you have that can be reused or continue to be used.

If you buy good quality, there’s a good chance that your kids’ backpacks will last more than one school year. Poorly made ones may struggle. Not to mention that some kids are just plain hard on their stuff. Just really think before buying a backpack if you already have one that will work.

I suggest avoiding backpacks with favorite characters if possible. These can be outgrown because your child doesn’t like a particular show anymore or becomes aware that the other kids don’t like that show. It can be embarrassing to own the wrong backpack at times like that.

If your child brings lunch to school, take a look at what you have. Make sure your bag is lead and BPA free and in good enough condition. Make sure you have good quality reusable containers. I love my daughter’s Klean Kanteen, and it will last for years.

Don’t forget their clothes. Many outfits will be outgrown over the summer, so see what you need to buy to start things off, but remember that the weather will be hot for a while yet in many areas. Take advantage of thrift store shopping and do consider the colder weather for your area if you see appropriate clothes available.

Find Out What You Will Need

You may not need to buy a lot of school supplies. Many schools provide lists of things they will need for the classrooms while others don’t expect you to provide anything. Buy environmentally friendly options when possible.

Amazon has a green office supplies section that may be an easy way to handle this shopping.

Plan on Walking, Biking or Busing to School

Depending on how far you live from your children’s school, plan on having them walk, bike or take the bus there. Don’t join the masses crowding in to drop the kids off by car if you can help it.

If you’re close enough, you can also encourage your fellow parents to have their kids walk to school. Some do a walking school bus where one parent leads a group of kids to pick up the various kids and walk them all to school together. It’s healthy for all concerned and takes care of a lot of the safety concerns many parents have.

Plan Healthy Lunches

The easiest way to provide your kids with a healthy lunch at school is to use leftovers from the previous night that don’t need to be reheated. This won’t work every day.

If you want to provide warm food, get a Thermos or other insulated food jar for your kids to use.

Don’t buy the prepackaged lunches or snack size bags of chips or crackers. You can put appropriate amounts into your reusable containers quite easily.