It is never safe to leave your child alone in a public space or even to ask people you don’t know to keep an eye on your child. The scary reality is that it only takes a minute for a child to be abducted. When children are in an exciting, new place, parents need to be more vigilant than usual - which is difficult when all children want to do is explore their new surroundings.
With summer just around the corner, family outings and holidays may be exciting adventures for your little ones, but can also present dangers for young kids - especially when they can’t yet memorise important information such as names and phone numbers.
Below are some safety tips that you, as parents, can take heed of when out and about in public spaces.
1. Write your phone number on their arm
Ensure that your child knows your phone numbers. Make each child recite the phone number to you before heading out for the day. With younger kids, write your phone number on their arm with a permanent marker or even slip a business card into their pocket (and tell them that it’s there) - that way people will know who to contact should your child get lost.
2. Develop a “what if” rule
Before reaching your destination, discuss what each family member should do if they become separated from the others. Tell your children whose help they should ask for; lifeguards, police officers or even other moms with children. If your children are older, arrange to meet them at a certain point at a certain time.
3. Dress your child in bright colours
Buy brightly coloured clothing to make your children easier to spot in a crowd. Dress siblings in some form of matching clothes, which will help you remember what colour to look for should someone get lost.
4. Have a recent photo of your child on your phone or camera
Even better - take a photo of your child before you head out for the day. That way you will be able to remember what your child was wearing should they go missing.
5. Make sure the adult on duty KNOWS they’re on duty
If you’re travelling in a large group, assign an adult to watch each child at all times. Make sure that when an adult needs to do something, they ‘tag’ another adult to watch their assigned child. It is important never to make assumptions. This is most relevant when kids are playing near water.
6. Invest in GPS kids watch or tracking device
Although the initial outlay will be expensive, there is certainly no price any parent can place on knowing where their children are. PingMe has a range of tracking devices suited to the whole family.
7. Keep your child contained when in a crowded space
When going to a crowded place, it is best to keep children in a pram or buggy and/or hold on to them tightly. It only takes a moment for a toddler to wander off.
8. Play safety games
Before heading out on an excursion, play safety games with your children. Even before they can talk, children can play some basic safety games. Children won’t always do what you want, but games such as “Red-Light-Green-Light” can help when you need to get their attention.
9. Give them their ticket
If you take your children somewhere that has assigned seating (such as a concert or the theatre) give them their ticket to put in their pockets. Should they get lost, most security guards and ushers will bring the kids back to their seats if they have their ticket stubs. 10. Give your child the choice Finally, it is important to let children know that they never have to do anything they don’t want to do (apart from eating their veggies). And they don’t have to do anything with an older child or adult that they don’t want to do either. If they don’t want to kiss “Granny Agnes” that it’s ok. What’s important is letting your child be ok making the choice about what they feel comfortable doing or not doing.
Practice all these tips, and review and reinforce them in a way that will not frighten your children. It is however, important to remember the limits of their age and maturity. The goal is to make your children smart and keep them safe.