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Summer Crowd Safety

As we get ready for our summer vacations
(or would, if we could afford the gas it takes to get there), the
last thing we want to think about is losing a child. But the truth
is that seven out of ten kids get lost at least once, so the odds
are that we’re going to experience that heart-stopping panic
of not being able to find your child in the crowd. Even if the kids
are only missing for a few minutes, those few minutes will be
forever etched in your mind, and you’d do anything to find
your child again as quickly as possible.

So I’ve been scouring the Internet trying to find some tips
to pass along to you. I keep thinking Maddie’s too young to
need the “Stranger Danger” talk, but the truth is that
as soon as your child is mobile he needs to be learning family
safety procedures. Maddie is fearless, and the sight of her plowing
blithely ahead in the middle of Times Square, with no thought for
cars or crazy people or even the occasional “Where’s
Mommy?” check-in, brings reality down hard. Here are some
ways you can try to keep the whole family “found”, and
tips you can pass on to your toddler in case she does become

First, think about how you’re
dressing. Studies have shown that yellow and green are the easiest
to spot in a crowd, so consider putting your toddler in a bright
yellow or green top before heading out to the airport/amusement
park/beach. Wearing the same color on yourself will make it easier
for the toddler to find you as well. Keep in mind as you dress
yourself that toddlers see a sea of legs, so look for ways to help
negate that – wearing a bright belt, clipping a hankie to a
belt loop, that sort of thing.

Make sure your toddler has your own contact information somewhere
on his person. I’ve read suggestions to make a card with your
name and cell phone number, laminate it, and leave it in his
pocket, but by far my favorite idea is a new product – href="http://www.safetytat.com" target="_blank">Safety
. They’re temporary tattoos made-to-order with
your cell phone number on it, and you simply rub it on and head out
the door. It doesn’t come off at water parks, doesn’t
require you to write on the child with a (toxic) Sharpie, is easily
seen by any adult trying to help the child, and doesn’t give
any information away that could be used by predators. Which reminds
me – don’t put any personal info on that laminated
card, such as the child’s name or your home address, which
could be used at a later date. Stick with a cell number of whoever
is on-site with the toddler.

As you head out for the day, stop to snap a picture of your toddler
with your cell phone camera. That way you’ll have a current
photo to show Six Flags security when the hunt begins, complete
with current outfit. Some sites recommend carrying a photo with the
child’s stats written on the back for wider dissemination,
but I like the idea of having a picture of your child in
today’s clothing.

Once out and about, try to find a way to make your family group
easily identifiable in a crowd: tie a balloon to your stroller to
make it stand out, buy a sun umbrella in a funky color, that sort
of thing. Just don’t fly a flag that says, “Johnston

Tell your toddler that if she gets lost, she should go ask a mommy
for help. Most kids can identify a mother by sight, but any woman
is statistically safer and less likely to be a predator than a man,
and mothers especially will go the extra mile to help a lost child.
Yes, we tell children not to talk to strangers, but it would be
more accurate and more helpful to teach them to not talk to
strangers that approach them first. In a lost situation,
they’re going to need to talk to a stranger to get back to

If you can’t find your toddler, try to keep one family member
in that area rather than everyone rushing off to the security
station; chances are the child is somewhere in that very near area.
But do notify security right away, and have them implement their
Lost Child protocols.

As your toddler gets older, teach him your family’s
“safe” word: it’s a word that’s easy to
remember but hard for a stranger to guess. Predators will often
come up to kids and say, “Your mommy asked me to come get you
today because she’s sick.” Unless that stranger knows
the safe word, your child shouldn’t go with him. Again, this
rule is suspended if your child approaches a stranger for help!

And one more lesson to teach your toddler (I know, no one likes to
think about this, but it’s important): if a stranger picks
your child up uninvited, have your child yell, “Help! This
person is not my father! (or mother)” It’ll make the
situation clear to outside adults and give them permission to

You know how sometimes parents will say, “If you don’t
come with me right now I’m going to leave you”?
I’d discourage this, because many predators will tell the
children their parents are unhappy they’ve “run
away” and don’t want them to come home any more. Make
it clear to your children that you will never, EVER leave them, and
they’ll keep fighting to be found at the mall rather than
getting forlornly into that stranger’s car.

And finally, when you do find your lost child (and you will,
probably happily eating an ice cream cone off the ground),
don’t yell at him. This will only make him choose staying
lost next time to being found. This works well when you’ve
spent many earlier trips praising him for staying close by you at
the grocery store/toy store/video arcade. Practice makes perfect.

So there you go – a few tips for when the unthinkable
happens. I know, we hate to even let these possibilities enter our
radar, but a little prevention goes a long way towards peace of
mind. Have some conversations with your toddler, order the safety
tattoos, then hit the amusement park and forget about it.


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