Every few years, my wife and I like to take our kids on a cruise around the first of the year. It’s great to get away from work and out of the cold weather. We enjoy spending that time together and the memories we make that will last a lifetime.
However, with three almost 4 kids in the family, it can be stressful keeping the kids close by as we navigate our way through the busy airport, cruise port and on the boat. Each one wants to go a different way and do different things.
In this article, I want to share with you what my wife and I have done to ensure the safety of our kids when we go to events that will have large crowds such as Amusement parks, Zoo’s, fair, parades, indoor and outdoor malls, cruise, or any other event where your child could get lost in the crowd- even a busy playground.
The process of keeping your kids safe starts well before you even leave the house. By being properly prepared in the event that you and your child become separated, you will be able to locate them quickly and effectively.
I love this tip because it can be extremely helpful and is very easy to do. Dress your child in a bright color that will be easy to pick out of a crowd. If you have more than one child- consider a similar color shirt, hat, or jacket. This keeps my parental anxiety under control when we are at a large playground or place with crowds of children. I am constantly scanning and counting my children to try to keep my two eyes on each one of them -normally while also carrying on a decently coherent conversation with a parent next to me.
Tip# 2 Photo
Take a picture of your child so you can easily describe what they are wearing and current photo of what they look like. You can easily and quickly share the photos with anyone who is helping you locate your child in the even that they get lost.
Note: Be sure to take individual photos showing their faces and the clothes they are wearing that day. Get photos of them with their jackets/hats on and off.
Tip#3: Contact Number
Teach your children your phone number as early as possible. However, even if they have it memorized, in the event of an emergency they could easily get confused, scared, stressed and unable to correctly explain our phone number to a police officer. Therefore, for younger children or even older ones, attach a contact number to them somehow. There are several places and ways to do this. You can write it on a shirt tag or backpack. If you are at the pool or someplace with water you can either write your name and phone number on their arm with a water proof sharpie pen or printed on a waterproof/rip-proof paper on their swim gear.
Tip#3: Buddy System
Before we leave the house, we pair up the kids into what we call “Buddy System”. With the age of our kids, the two oldest are always paired together. The know that when we do the buddy system, we are going someplace that requires them to keep an eye out for each other. If one or the other were to wander away more than 5 feet, they are to let us know immediately.
The buddy system allows us to focus on getting to the right terminal for our flight, order some food at the airport of other occasions that inevitably distract of attention momentarily. Even with just my wife and I we have a sort of tag in- tag out buddy system, where we intentionally make sure the other one is watching the kids before we leave to do something else. All too often we hear stories of accidents happening to one child while one parent assumed the other was watching them. Just because they are in the same vicinity, does not always mean they are watching them. It is so important to clearly communicate who is on “duty”.
Tip #4 Make a plan and Establish Safe Parameters.
As soon as they are old enough to wander around the playground on their own, establish a plan with them and always communicate any changes. This helps them understand their responsibility as well. For example, tell them you will be on this park bench and they are not allowed to go farther than this specific playground or that building, etc. If that plan changes because you have to run to the car or something- make sure they know. One time my little boy had ran back to show me something and could not fine me at the playground. He quickly became panicked and could have easily ran off looking for me if I didn’t get to him first. As they develop their sense of autonomy they have to establish their own sense of safety as well. Setting a plan and guidelines can help them feel safe comfortable adventuring as well as ensure their safety from other possible dangers.
Tip #5 Communicate possible Scenarios Effectively
Help your child understand why safety parameters are necessary and explain possible dangers so that you can also talk them through solutions. Here are some helpful tips to talk about:
- Don’t move, look around without moving
- Remain calm
- Find a police officer or another adult with kids their own age
- Show them the phone number on their arm or clothing
- Don’t move, have them call your mom.
I included the word “effectively” in this tip because how you communicate this information can make a big difference. For example, our daughter has social anxiety and gets very nervous in big crowds so it is important that we explain possible scenarios at home, in a safe casual environment (not too close to bedtime when she can have nightmares) and then comfortably remind her of the plan before we go somewhere with a big crowd. I have worked with other children, however, where such precautions would go straight over their head and you literally have to scare them with the possible scenarios in order for them to take you seriously and listen to your solutions. For other, and most children they also have to be repeated numerous times before becoming effective. You know your child best and so only you know how to most effectively teach them what to do if something bad where to happen.
Use the tips above that work best for your family and help you enjoy the day with your kids. Below are some other helpful products that may be worth considering if they fit for your family.
The IP68 Waterproof smartwatch is made for 3 to12 year olds. They come in either pink or Blue colors. This is another great option for keeping track of your kids while in large crowds or for everyday use.
My wife and I love these toddler backpacks. The “leashes” allow for us to maintain a hold onto our kids while still allowing them a little room to explore around us.
The GBD GPS Tracker is a great inexpensive tracker that connects to your phone and allows for you to track your kids (within a 50-76ft range).