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Back-to-School Tips from the Pros: Masks, Car Seats + MORE Tips!

Back-to-school season is here and we want to help you and your family get off to a great start for the best school year ever!

We’re turning to some of our favorite local experts to gather up advice when it comes to kids and face masks, car seat safety, first day jitters and more!

Ask the Doctor: Face masks and unvaccinated kids

universal masking

Face masks are not required at my child’s school. Should they still wear one?

Dr. Allison Messina, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital: “Per CDC guidelines, it continues to be the recommendation that persons ages 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 wear a mask when in an indoor, public space. This would apply to school classrooms.

Masks should fit snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face. If cloth masks are worn, they would be made with tightly woven fabrics which do not let light through when held up to the light. They should have 2 or three layers of fabric.

Alternatively, a single use, disposable medical procedure mask could be worn as well. If this type of mask is chosen it still needs to fit correctly. Small, disposable procedure masks are available in child sizes.”

Related: American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal masking in schools

What are the concerns about the Delta variant and kids?

Dr. Allison Messina: “The Delta variant of the SARS CoV 2 virus is more contagious than the virus that was circulating last year. Those who are unvaccinated (including children) are more likely to catch this virus from others and they are more likely to spread it, too.”

What are some other steps parents can take to keep their children healthy and prevent illness?

Dr. Allison Messina: “Do not send your child to school if they are sick. Even if they have mild cold symptoms, discuss with their pediatrician to see if they need to be tested for COVID before sending to school.

Continue to encourage handwashing. In households with children too young to be vaccinated, encourage the older members of the family to get vaccinated. Most children catch COVID from the adults around them.

Be sure children are up to date on all of their other vaccines, including the yearly vaccine for influenza.”

Ask the Teacher: First Day Jitters

How can I help my child cope with first day jitters before their first day of Pre-K or Kindergarten?

The first day of preschool or kindergarten can feel really intimidating for a little one, but there are some things you can do to help your child feel a bit more confident as they step into the classroom or the first time.

Corbett Preparatory School of IDS in Tampa recommends going through the routine and even mirroring the school day for a few weeks before school starts—that means aligning the family schedule with the same wake up time, lunch and snack time of the school day.

A special book and even memento a parent can share with their child can also help ease first day jitters. Lauren Fopp, PreK3 teacher, shares these favorite reads for the first day of school:

  • “Let Today Be the Start of Something New!” by Gea Samma-Imbrenda
  • “The Kissing Hand” by Aubrey Penn

Fopp also suggests checking on Etsy for some really cute First Day of Kindergarten/First Day of School bracelets designed for the child and parent to wear.


Ask the Sleep Expert: Nighttime Routines and Sleep Schedules

We’ve been off schedule this summer due to vacations and camp. What’s the best way to get back on a regular sleep routine and how much sleep does my child need?

Jessica Berk, Toddler Sleep Coach & local Tampa mom: “Getting back in the routine of waking up early for school can be tough on kids after summer break. Make it easier on them by putting them to bed earlier in the week leading up to school.

Kids between 2 and 6 years need 10-12 hours of sleep each night and should be asleep before 8 p.m. If bedtime is later right now, move it back in 15-minute increments every couple of days until you find the sweet spot when they fall asleep easily before 8 p.m.

Bigger kids ages 6-13 year need 9-11 hours of sleep each night, and teens need 8 to 10 hours each night.” 

Related: The Bedtime Routine: Expert Tips to Get Ready for Back to School

Ask the Child Passenger Safety Expert: Car Seats vs Booster Seats

We’re doing carline for the first time. A booster seat will make the process easier. What are your thoughts on this?

Michelle Pratt, nationally certified child passenger safety expert/founder of Safe in the Seat: “Car line is not a reason to switch your child to a booster seat. Make sure your child is in the right state seat; don’t jump ‘grades’ before it’s time. You’re the headmaster, principal and teacher of your child, so their safety is your decision and yours alone. Embrace and lean into that power.”

Every car seat is different, so you’ll want to check the manual to see if your child meets the correct height and weight requirements. Michelle recommends you keep your child in a 5-point harness car seat for as long as the car seat allows. 


But that’s not all…here’s MORE expert advice for Back-to-School:

Let’s Get Organized! Back to School Home Organization

Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne
Laura Byrne is an award-winning former television news journalist who spent 15+ years in newsrooms across the state of Florida including Sarasota, Tallahassee, Fort Myers and right here in Tampa Bay where she still freelances on occasion. She covered the political beat, crime beat and every day breaking news during her time in Florida newsrooms, but is now focused on sharing positive news stories and events with families in Tampa Bay. She is a proud mommy of two little boys who keep her on her toes and laughing every day. Her goal is to inspire families just like yours to get out and play and experience all that Tampa Bay and our great state of Florida have to offer! She encourages you to share your stories and upcoming events so we can spread the good news.

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