Advice to Prepare for a Lost Child at Amusement Parks

Kids having fun on a carnival CarouselA neighbor and I were recently sharing stories about past family trips to Disney World when she described her strategies for dealing with the possibility of a lost child at the amusement park. While we had both experienced anxiety about the idea of losing a precious little one, Pamela was much more organized and forward-thinking than I had been. But perhaps that was because she had 3 kids in tow under the age of 7 and was part of an extended family group, including a total of 8 over-excited kiddos!

To help in the event of a lost child, each morning she lined all the children up against a wall and took individual full-length photos of each child with her cell phone so she could describe what any one of them was wearing that day. As she said, “It’s impossible to keep track of who’s got what on over several days.” Additionally, when they first arrived, she wrote her cell phone number on the inside of each child’s shirt with a Sharpie (“As a mom, I always travel with a Sharpie,” she told me). What good advice! I wished I had thought to do the same when my son was younger, and it got me wondering what other suggestions there are for dealing with the possibility of losing a child in a large place like an amusement park.

So here’s a summary of what I found – a great deal of good advice and strategies to use this summer at water or amusement parks – or anywhere you and your little ones find large crowds enjoying the great summer weather.

Talk before you walk. Impress upon your kids the reasons for sticking with the group and how to stay together – like always holding hands, paying attention to what mom and dad are wearing, etc. But prepare and discuss in advance a plan should someone get separated – like meeting at an identified location (if your children are old enough and confident about finding the spot), knowing where the “lost children” center is in the park you are visiting, or telling your child to find someone to help if he’s lost.

NOTE: Current advice now says to tell your child to ask for help from a mommy with little children, rather than a (often male) security guard/someone with a badge and uniform, since it is almost unheard of for a woman to be a predator and badges can be faked.

Mark your precious cargo. You can use a Sharpie on clothing like my friend Pamela did, but don’t use it directly on your child’s skin as these markers contain chemicals that are industrial solvents. You can write on other items like rubber bracelets or name tags, but be sure to use waterproof markers to avoid smearing that valuable information. Also, you can now get temporary tattoos – like Safety Tat – customized with your phone number or a child’s health information, which might make safety planning more effective and fun for the kids.

Description prescription. If you’ve ever lost a child (guilty!) you know the first thing the authorities ask is “What is your child wearing.” And they aren’t just looking for an answer like: “Uh, a t-shirt and cargo shorts…I think?” Each day of a vacation could you recall what color and design of shirt, shorts, socks and shoes each or your kids is wearing? And did they have sunglasses or a hat? A bag? Certainly one popular way to address this issue is to dress everyone in the group alike (or at least the kids). But it can be tough to get enough CLEAN versions of the same clothes – so that’s why I like my friend, Pamela’s, daily photo shoot.

Happy 4th of July!

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


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