I am not big fan of crowds. Sometimes when our family visits a place that is somewhat crowded, I find that I spend most of my day counting heads. Since I’m usually carrying the baby in a front pack, I count to six and then start over again. All. Day. Long. My children, oblivious to my worry, scatter in every direction.
Here are six safety tips that have helped me enjoy our time out a little more.
- Select a strategy in case someone gets lost
When we go to a strange place, we designate one or two places as meet up spots in case we become separated. This works for the older children and we start to assign a meeting place to kids who are 8 and older. For younger children, we instruct them to just sit down and wait as long as it takes for one of us to come back. Even if the child has wandered off to a place we haven’t yet been to, it keeps us from getting further separated. In addition, if I have to report my child missing, I can tell them that my child should be sitting down, a fact that will stand out in most settings.
Since I have one son who worries about everything–and especially about getting lost–this provides some level of reassurance to my kids that if anything goes wrong, we have a plan.
- Know your number
For older kids, we do a phone number check at the beginning of the day. When we are away from home, this comes with a reminder to use the area code. Each child recites both our cell phone numbers to make sure they are correct. For younger children, I take a Sharpie and write my phone number on their stomach. Yes, I do. I have planned, in the past, to make a little bracelet with contact info. I’ve used a piece of paper in the pocket, too, but I find that I like the Sharpie on the tummy. My kids find it hilarious that Mom writes on their skin, and I hope that makes it more likely that they will remember to find it if they ever become lost.
- Buddy up
We use a buddy system in which an older child is paired with a younger child. Our buddy system is part of our regular family life, not only for travel. At home, older buddies help younger buddies with all sorts of things from getting clothes ready to getting a drink. When we are out and about, older buddies help keep track of the younger ones. It is a blessing to have an extra set of eyes counting along, and it helps younger and older children to think about being accountable to one another.
- Remember what your kids are wearing
Recently, we started wearing matching shirts on our outings, and that really made it easy to see where everyone was throughout the day. I am lousy at remembering what my kids have on and most days, if you asked me, I couldn’t even tell you what I have on myself without peeking. Snapping a photo of each child in the morning is a good way to make sure you have a really recent picture of your child that shows what clothing he is wearing.
- Talk about whom to approach for help
When we go to any place that is staffed, we talk about what the staff is wearing and tell our children that if they need to ask for help, they should go to a ranger or store clerk or someone who works in the facility. Yes, we already told the little ones to sit down and the big ones to find an agreed-upon location, but asking for help may also be necessary at some point, and we want our kids to be a little extra cautious when choosing the person to approach.
- Pack hand sanitizer
OK, hand sanitizer won’t keep your child from getting lost, but it might prevent your child coming home with a little something extra. You know all those things your kids touched at the theme park? The chains, the chairs, the bathroom fixtures, the doors, the park benches, the trash cans, the gum under the table…in short, everything. You can be sure that there were about eleventy-seven kids who came before yours and they touched all that stuff too. I much prefer a good hand washing with running water and soap, but that isn’t always an option. A little bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket helps with cleaning up before meals, and a good dose through the day helps keeps everyone’s hands cleaner and less likely to bring home a virus.
Those are the tips we’re using these days to keep us all as safe as we can be. If you have travel tips that have worked for you, please share in the comments!
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