School Bus 101: A Parent’s Guide to Bus Riding

One of the hallmarks of school days is riding the school bus. Whether your child is riding the bus to and from school on a daily basis or just on the occasional field trip, riding the school bus for the first time can be both exciting and nerve wracking for kids and parents! Riding the school bus doesn’t have to be scary though! We are here to share some surefire ways to make your child’s bus riding experiences the best they can be!

Seeing that big yellow bus pull up can make little ones quite nervous, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Each year, millions of students board the school bus. For many young children, however, the prospect of riding one can be daunting. Preparing your child for this experience can help both ease fears and also improve safety. Keep in mind that it’s normal for a child to be concerned about riding a school bus for the first time and your child’s apprehension can be compounded by fears about starting a new school and separating from you. This is 100% natural and to be expected, especially with young kids starting school for the first time. Most kids, however, will end up loving riding the bus and with a little preparation before hand, and following up after, you can be sure that your child not only enjoys their experience riding the bus but also looks forward to doing it again!

Before the Big Day


As with starting any new tradition, it’s always best to walk your child through the steps of how riding the bus will work. This may require you to do a little homework before the big day yourself. Are there many stops or only a few? Will the bus be very full or do you live in a small district and it won’t have as many kids on it? Can the children choose their own seats or will they be assigned one? A great place to get these answers is by calling the transportation department for your school district. Explain that you are a “first-timer” and want to know how to explain how it works with your child. You want your child to know what to expect before they actually ride!

Before the first day of school, walk down to the bus stop so your child is familiar with where it is. Explain what the behavior expectations are for the bus stop and make sure you answer any questions they have.

Basic School Bus Stop Etiquette

Every family should have clear rules for what’s allowed and not allowed at the bus stop for safety’s sake. Make sure your child really understands how they are expected to behave at the stop both in the morning and after school. Some general rules of thumb are:

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes early for the bus. Running can be dangerous, so you want to give yourself enough time to walk safely.
  • Wait on the sidewalk, not in the street.
  • Look both ways before crossing any streets.
  • No horseplay when you are waiting! Too many kids fooling around can lead to pushing and by the street, that is never a good idea!
  • When the bus arrives, get into a nice quiet line. No cutting or pushing, and it’s a good idea to let the younger kids on first.
  • Remind them to NEVER try to pick something up if they drop it getting on the bus! Teach them to tell you, the driver or a teacher to get it for them.
  • Explain to your child to NEVER get off on a different stop! Even if their friend says it’s ok to come over and visit (this happens more than you’d think!) Explain who (you, your spouse, an older sibling, family friend or family member) will be waiting at the stop for them and if they do not see that person, tell the driver. Be sure when you are waiting for them, to be waiting on the side of the street that they will be dropped off on. Often kids are so excited to see you that they may forget to look both ways, and even though all drivers KNOW to stop for a bus, we have all seen adults not obey this rule.
  • For parents: get to know the other families at the stop. It’s a good idea for at least a few grown ups to be waiting until the bus comes and all the kids get on. It’s nice to make some friends so that if there was ever a situation where you needed to leave, you could ask another mom or dad to watch your child get on, and you can do the same for them.


Make sure your child is familiar with their stop. Take a ride in the car before the first day of school and follow the same route the bus would. Teach them to look for particular landmarks so they know which stop is theirs. In certain neighborhoods, where all the houses look similar, it’s easy for a young child to think they are getting off on their stop and they actually are not.

On the Bus


So you’ve have taught your kids what to expect before they ride; now it’s time to teach them what is expected of them ON the bus! Most districts will teach basic bus rules, but not often on the first day of school. Teachers will usually incorporate that into a lesson before a field trip, but if you are going to have an everyday bus rider, it’s important to explain to them what’s allowed and what’s not allowed on the bus.

Why no seat belts on a school bus? School buses are designed differently than cars and are considered safer than traditional vehicles. With higher back seats, steel reinforced sides and a rounded top, they are made for withstanding a higher impacts than cars are. Also, seat belts can be used as weapons with older kids and can you imagine a single driver trying to help a fully loaded bus of kids unbuckle seat belts if there was ever an accident? These are all the more reason to ensure your child is riding the bus properly (see below) so that they are the safest they can be. Info: NHTSA

Basic Bus Behavior

  • When you enter the bus, find the nearest seat and sit down. The driver will explain how many kids to a seat and may tell your kids where to sit. This is why it’s nice to know this before hand, so your child can know what to expect.
  • Remain seated for the whole ride.
  • No getting up and down, turning around or putting legs in the aisle. This is not the safest way to travel.
  • Use a quiet voice on the bus. Busses are notoriously loud, due to the design of the bus, so make sure your child understands that the driver needs to concentrate on the road, and screaming is distracting and dangerous.
  • Be friendly and kind to others.
  • If they encounter someone who is unkind, the best policy is to ignore them. If that doesn’t work, make sure your child knows to tell the driver and also you, so that you can deal appropriately with another child who is not behaving on the bus. Riding the school bus is a great time for little kids to learn how to deal with different personalities. Be sure your child knows YOUR expectations on how to deal with another kid that may be acting unkind or mean and be sure to communicate these concerns with the driver and the transportation department immediately.
  • Find out what activities are allowed on the bus or not. It’s usually not a good idea to send your child with electronics, unless of course you don’t care if they get sent back, and it may be against certain district’s policies. A nice book is a great idea, and often enough, chatting with friends is plenty to keep them happy.

It’s a good idea to send your child with an index card with their name, address and your phone number, just in case. Sticking this in their backpack and teaching your child to show the driver if they get confused can help curb any “wrong stop” mistakes. Also, don’t forget to write your child’s name on EVERYTHING they bring (backpack, lunch box, jacket, sweater, hat)- left items on the bus are a common occurrence.

Special Traditions


Now that your child knows what to expect and how to behave, it’s time to reward them for a job well done! Try starting one or a few of these special “school bus” traditions for the first day of school to show your little rider how proud you are of them for being brave and trying something new!

  • Read some school bus books the night before school starts. Some of our favorite are Pete The Cat Wheels on the Bus, Ten Rules You Must Not Break When Riding the Bus, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and any Magic School Bus book!
  • Write some inspirational messages at the bus stop in chalk. How exciting would it be for your little one to get off of the bus and seeing the words “way to go!” and “you rock!” written on the sidewalk?!
  • Pack a special sticker book or new book for them to read on the bus- write a nice message inside it saying how proud you are of them.
  • Be the coolest mom around and meet your child at the bus stop with some water balloons! They will definitely enjoy some fun after a long day — just be sure to grab their backpack first so you don’t get any important new school year papers wet!
  • Make a special Bus Cake or Bus Cookies for the first day snack. They will be so excited to have that yummy treat after a long day of hard school work!
    Product Recommendation

    Make your Bus Cake easily with this neat Bus Cake Baking Pan! You can reuse it every school year and it will quickly become one of your child’s favorite new school year traditions.


As with any new experience, riding the school bus can be a bit scary at first, but by following these tips and by starting some fun new traditions, your kids will soon be begging you to let them ride! Make sure your child knows to come and talk with you about anything they find uncomfortable on the bus- one of parents biggest worries is younger kids riding with older kids and because older kids may not always follow the rules. Tell your younger ones to sit closer to the driver and make sure they tell you if they hear naughty words or see kids misbehaving, so you can talk with them about it. While becoming a seasoned school bus rider can take a bit of practice, most children will eventually find that riding the bus is fun and increases self-confidence and independence.

Looking for more info about back to school? Check out these posts to learn more!
Getting Back on School Time
Cute Ways to Commemorate the New School Year
10 Tips for Starting Kindergarten or Preschool
Watch our Nurture- School Category for even more school posts coming your way!

Photo Credits: Our Three Peas, Starfarm, Leah Christenson

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Michelle

Michelle; full time mama, part time blogger, wife extraordinaire. This busy mama to three “peas” is a lover of all things running, crafting and baking. A New England native and current desert dweller, she is the brains and wit behind the blog Our Three Peas, where she writes about the hilarious reality that is motherhood. She strives to live a green and natural life and swears that most motherhood-related dramas can be solved by having a nice glass of wine at the end of the evening.

Comments (3)

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    Betty

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    👍🏻
    They’ve come a long way since my children rode a school bus. My oldest daughter was put on the wrong bus after school, [first grade] and when she didn’t get home on her bus I panicked. They called from school and said the driver of the bus she was on brought her back to school when she realized she was the last one on the bus. I went to school to pick her up. I have never gotten over it, especially when I see these things posted. But there are such good semaritans we have out there. THANK YOU! And thank you for posting all this informative information about the way they do it today!

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Alie

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    I have a question
    Well today was the second day of school this is our first time for school and school bus for my daughter and I.
    Well as we were walking up to the bus she was getting scared and crying more. I was just insuring her this is the school bus and you are gonna do great it’s ok. Well I didn’t know but I had stepped on the first step and at same time my emotions were going already.
    Well the bus driver didn’t make it a nice experience for us at all. She yelled in a ugly voice to get off the bus. I stepped down and said I was sorry this is our first time. She was completely rude. Just want some advice? My daughter went on the bus like that and me coming back home, I just felt as she could of handled it differently. I don’t have a choice to drop her off. Should I bring it to transportation department? I don’t want it being taken out on my daughter just want someone to coach this women how to be especially with first time parents?

    Reply

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