One of every mom or dad’s worse nightmares is losing your kids in public. The thought of being at the playground, shopping mall, or amusement park, and suddenly looking around and not seeing your child is probably enough to make your hair stand on end.
Unfortunately, most parents are bound to experience the panic of losing your kids in public at some point. The good news is, most disappearances are short-lived, and end in a happy reunion seconds, minutes, or even hours later.
But are there tricks you can learn that may cut down on the chance of losing your kids in public? There are. Read on for tips on not only how to prevent losing your kids in public, but how to teach your child what to do if they become separated from you.
How not to lose your kids in public:
- Take a picture
Before you head out to the fair or to walk around the city, snap a picture of your child that clearly shows what he or she is wearing that day. Doing so takes seconds, and to your kids is just another moment mom wants to photo-document.
Having a photo of your child taken that day can be a real value later on if your child goes missing.
If your day out involves a car ride, read these five car safety tips for traveling with kids.
- Bright match
Turn choosing outfits for the day into a fun game where everyone in the family wears neon shirts, or bright red shorts, for example. If a child goes missing in a crowd, bright colors are easy to spot.
Plus, if everyone is wearing a similar color or outfit, you won’t be left trying to remember who is wearing what when precious seconds are ticking away. Kids will also be able to spot each other, and you, quickly and easily in a crowd.
You can also take an extra precaution and write your name and cell number in permanent marker on the inside of your child’s shirt. Let your son or daughter know the information is there in case they get lost.
- Buddy up
Use the buddy system in public places, especially when you’re venturing out with a group of children. Assign each child a “buddy,” and explain they should look out for one another and know where their buddy is at all times.
If you’re out and about with a large group of kids, assign each a number, and have them “sound off” by yelling out their numbers in numerical order to take attendance. This can be a fun game for kids, and you can even turn it into a song.
The buddy system is especially important when swimming. Read more on 15 water safety rules every parent should follow.
- Contain younger children
The best way to keep younger kids from getting separated from you in a crowd is to keep them contained. Strollers are a great way to ensure kids don’t wander off, or slip unnoticed into a crowd.
Not to mention, you’ll get from point A to point B a lot faster with your child strapped into a stroller and under your control. For babies and smaller toddlers, consider a baby carrier or backpack.
- Go over the “lost” rules
Teach your children the rules for what to do when they’re lost. Turn it into a game, and have them role-play what to do in different situations when suddenly they can’t find mom or dad.
Children should be taught to find a policeman, lifeguard, a mom with children, or other trusted adults when they’re lost. They should be able to recite your full name (only knowing you as “mom” or “dad” isn’t much help to someone trying to locate you), and your cell phone number. For really young kids who wouldn’t be able to recite your name and number, write the information on their arm or shirt in marker.
Also tell children to stay put when lost, unless they are in a dangerous place (deep water, a busy road, etc.). And they shouldn’t be afraid to yell your first name when looking for you.
- Provide contact info
When you’re heading out for the day, give your child a piece of paper with your contact information and emergency contact information. Secure the paper in a child’s pocket or shoe, and tell them what to do with it if they get separated from you.
For children who are old enough, give them a cell phone to keep in their pocket, and instruct them on how to use it and who to call if they become lost. But also have rules in place for what to do if they get lost and the cell phone doesn’t work.
- Arrange a meeting place
Whenever you go to a crowded place, upon arrival choose a meeting place in case anyone gets separated. Take the whole family to the meeting place, so everyone knows exactly where it is and what it looks like. Choose a place that is easy to get to, easy to see, and centrally located.
- Stay alert
Staying alert in crowds and while out with your children is the best way to prevent anyone from getting lost. Don’t get too distracted by conversation with your spouse, friends, or other family members. Always keep an eye on where your kids are and what they’re doing.
If you’re in a large group, assign each adult one or a few children to watch at all times. Accidents can happen when an adult wrongly assumes someone else is watching the kids. Make it clear who is responsible for watching which children. And if an adult leaves the group, make sure they hand off responsibility before leaving.
Have fun on your adventures with the kids!