One of the most intimidating aspects of any summer travel adventure with kids in tow is braving theme parks, beaches, concerts, and other crowded tourist destinations. Young children seem to see a busy public event or space as an opportunity to wander, and before a parent can say “shiny object,” a public place can become a real-life “Where’s Waldo?” picture.
The Clovis, California, Police Department recently posted a few preventive safety tips for taking small children out to busy locations on its Facebook page, and the post went viral, racking up over 22.5K shares:
• Write your phone number on your child’s wrist and cover it with liquid band-aid in case you are separated. The liquid band aid will prevent the ink from rubbing off on the child’s wrists.
• Take a photo of your child using your cell phone the morning of the event so you have their clothing, hair style, and an up to date photo ready to go should you need it.
TODAY Tastemaker and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents that both tips are very effective and added that many parks and places offer paper bracelets at security on which parents can write a phone number. She has suggestions of her own for taking kids out in public this summer:
• Teach any child over the age of four to memorize your cell phone number. “If they can learn a song, they can learn a number,” she said. “Being able to tell a safety officer how to get in touch with their grown up will teach kids a valuable life skill and also help them calm down," said Gilboa.
• Ask, "Who works here?" when you take your child to a busy place. “Help them identify employees or lifeguards and then make sure they can tell you how they know that person works here (has a radio on their belt, is wearing a particular shirt, has a nametag) so that they can figure it out without you.”
• Assume you'll get separated. “Give your kids lots of reminders about staying together, but also talk about what you'll do when you can't find each other," said Gilboa. "This makes kids less scared when it happens and makes the whole group more prepared.”
• If you're with your kids somewhere that has assigned seats — a theater, concert, or baseball game, for example — give them their seat ticket to slip in their pockets. "Most security guards and ushers will bring kids back to their seat if they know where it is or have their ticket stub," she said.
Other experienced parents have their own methods of navigating busy public places. "Our kids always match clothes when we go places that are crowded," Kristina Grum, a mother of three girls and blogger at Thriving Parents, told TODAY Parents.
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"We always choose a home base, a bench or obvious landmark, at amusement parks or any crowded place we go to," said Patricia DeDominicis of East Hartford, Connecticut. "If they get separated or lost, they always know that they can go back to that spot. My stepsons are 12 and 14. We still do it."
Several parents also emphasized the need for children to take responsibility in their own safety. "I always tell mine they have to stay within distance to see me," said Anne Bailey Holt, a mother of two boys in Lake Mary, Florida.
And when in doubt, the wisdom of past generations still holds up. Berkeley, California, mom Kelly Marston shared a tip from her own grandmother: "Look them in the eye and talk about where we are going and what they need to do to have fun and stay safe, such as, 'There are going to be a lot of people, and your responsibility is to be able to see me and me to be able to see you. Otherwise, we will have to hold hands or even leave.' From amusement parks to festivals, the beach, or shopping malls, it has made keeping track of three active kids possible," she said.