When my children were 3 I took the to the Portland Children’s Museum. We love going there and they have so much fun. But there was a point where Riley went into the theatre and out the other side – one of the few rooms there that has two exits. I saw her walk in, mentioned to my friend who I was with that I needed to get her and to watch Dylan who was playing happily in the Construction Room with his BFF.
I walked into the theatre to see about 10 other kids playing, parents watching them and playing along. But no Riley. I searched the little backstage corners and then went out the other exit to see if she went to her favorite spot of the museum (the Train room) and she wasn’t there either. I told an employee I was looking for her and quickly described what she was wearing – a bright solid pink long sleeve tee, a puffy denim skirt, and bold black & white striped tights. She was found after a couple of minutes – thank goodness! – but it did scare me. Luckily we followed some key steps to be quickly reunited.
I wanted to share with you a few things you can try to keep an eye on your child while you are out so in case they DO get lost you can quickly find them:
- Dress them in something bright and different. Something that you can easily see while they are running around as well as easily describe in case they do get lost. The bolder the better! Stay away from light or muted tones that can get lost in the crowd. A big bow or hat helps you spot them easily too.
- Talk to your child about wandering off alone – explain that you get scared and lost. This helps shift the focus onto how you might feel and might not scare the child. It can help teach them some responsibility as well.
- Go on outings with a friend or family member – an extra pair of eyes is ALWAYS handy!
- Teach them your first and last name as soon as they can understand the difference between that and “mommy”. I constantly quiz the twins – “what’s mommy’s name? What’s daddy’s name? What’s your last name?”
- Also teach them your cell phone number. My kids are a little young to get the number right, so often I use a write-on temporary tattoo on their arm. Check out Safety Tat or My Precious Child. You can even get some that say if you child had autism or allergies.
- If you do not want to try the temporary tattoos you can write your name and phone number inside their jacket, shirt, or shoes with a permanent marker (on the tag). You know those “If found…” labels that are inside jackets? put YOUR name their instead of your child’s name.
- Be sure you have a picture on your cell phone of your child. Most of us always have one or two (or 100!) but if you load your pics on your computer often like I do you may not have a current photo handy. More excuses to take a cute picture! Also take a photo with your child to easily prove you are the parent just in case! You can also take a photo of your child that day – you will have a perfect visual description of what the child is wearing that day making it easier to find them,
- Have a Safety ID Kit with you that includes things like height/weight, fingerprints, etc. You can get a Free Kit HERE. or check with your local police or fire department,
- If your child gets lost find an employee right away to help you. Many retail stores have a program called “Code Adam”. When a Code Adam is called out the exits are monitored and employees are trained to immediately stop what they are doing to search every nook and cranny. When I worked for a major retailer we had Code Adam – even if an employee was in the middle of ringing a transaction they were instructed to suspend that transaction and go look. Look for this sign in the window:
- Teach your child the “safe areas” – municipal buses, the cash register area, etc. Teach them to head straight to the nearest register in a store as just about all of them have some sort of intercom located there and can call you over. Make sure they know to never EVER leave a store if they are lost unless they are with you – no matter what.
- If there is a threat of abduction, teach your child to scream and fight. I know it sounds hokey, but screaming “STRANGER DANGER” and “I DON’T KNOW YOU” is indeed an effective way to alert others that this is not just a tantrum. They should kick, hit, and never ever go willingly with someone they do not know. Older children can learn some effective self defense moves – check your local parks & rec for some leads on classes.
- If your child gets lost outside of a store, such as a park – teach your child to find another mommy or grandma to ask for help.
Hopefully these steps will help you in keeping your child safe!