I have very trusting children who have been known to wander off at the grocery story. I'd done lots of research and thought we had a pretty good system to keep track of them. But when my four year old wandered off at Disneyland, I knew I wasn't doing enough. These are the tips that work in our family. They have been tested in groups, both large and small, while at the park, the grocery story, large festivals, and yes, even at Disneyland. They give me a little peace of mind and hopefully they'll help you too.
Dress the kids in easily recognizable shirts
- When you have more than one kid to keep track of at the playground and everyone is running in different directions it is good to be able to locate your kids from far away with a quick glance. Bright colors and unique prints are a great way to do this.
Teach your kids who can help them besides Mom and Dad
- From a very young age we've taught our children about people whose job it is to protect us: policemen and firemen, security officers at stores, and even employees with specific badges. When we enter a new location for the first time we point out who is "safe" to ask for help. Don't forget to add mothers with children to this list.
Teach your kids what to say if they ever get lost
- This is important because it gives them some control in a scary situation. We've taught our kids to find a "safe" person and say "Hi, my name is Sophie Stone, my mom's name is Liz. I'm lost can you help me find her?" As soon as they are old enough to memorize (around 4 or 5) we also have them repeat mom's cell number.
Use the buddy system
- When my kids were smaller we'd assign a big buddy to a little buddy; now that they are a little older we let them pick. They know that they are responsible to not only stick with their buddy but to also keep track of the buddy. This helps mom with four (or more) kids in tow have more than one pair of eyes on each child.
When on vacation, take a picture of what your child looks like each morning with your cell phone
- We haven't had to use these pictures yet, but if one of the kids is lost long enough for you to bring in security or other employees, you will have a record of exactly what they look like that day.
These rules are great and were working for us. But I was spending so much time worrying about keeping track of everyone, I was missing out on the fun. One day I was inspired and our family now has 3 rules that we repeat anytime we are out for a day of fun.
Listen to Mom and Dad
- or any other adult we are with that day.
Don't Run Off
- Even if you see something interesting, you must stay with the group so we can all see it together. You must be able to see Mom, Dad, and your buddy at all times.
- When we listen and stay together we can all have fun.
Remember when you are trying to keep track of your kids, you are their parent. You know them better than anyone else. Create rules that work for your unique situation and you too will be able to have fun.