Maybe you’re going to a museum, the zoo, a festival or maybe even Disneyland with your children and the thought of huge throngs of adults towering over our children at these events can be a little daunting.
To help, I’ve gathered up the best tips I could find both online and in our Facebook community of Babies for Beginners parents on how to stay safe in crowded places because often it’s just one safety measure between a bad story and a bad outcome.
I hope you never need these tips, but if something does happen, you’ll be glad to have these safety measures at the ready.
#1. Use a Baby Carrier.
One of my favorite tools for staying safe in large crowds is the amazing baby carrier. My favorite brand is the Tula carrier. This soft structured carrier has wonderful adjustment straps and thick padding for the shoulders. In the Tula I could (and did) wear my daughter for hours at a festival with zero back pain!
Of course, the biggest safety selling point of a baby carrier is that baby stays close to you and will not go anywhere. There are also toddler carriers to keep your toddlers from running away if your little one is easily distracted.
But beyond that baby carriers are great because, unlike strollers, you don’t need to constantly search for ramps, elevators, and clear walkways. With a baby carrier, you can walk up stairs and you walk through crowds a lot easier.
Before carriers came into my life, we once took our toddler and infant daughters to a festival. The toddler was walking and our baby girl was in the car seat in the stroller. Needless to say after a few minutes, my toddler wanted in the stroller so we had to carry our baby girl in the car seat the entire time. It was a pain!
#2. Make a “Toddler Tail”.
Along with baby carriers, I learned that the long adjustment straps can be used for “independent” toddlers who don’t really want to hold your hand but need to stay close to you. I have them put a finger in the elastic of the adjustment strap and tell them to hold on.
My daughters have a sense of independence and are more likely to listen to me in crowded places. If I didn’t have my baby carrier, I would tie a long ribbon to my purse and they would have to hold onto that when I needed them close. I began calling this my “toddler tail”.
#3. Never Assume the Other Person is Watching Your Little One.
My husband and I have learned to never assume the other parent is watching the child.
We make sure to always say out loud, “I am watching the girls” or “Can you take over?”
Especially at large family gatherings, it’s so easy to get distracted and all of a sudden kiddo is off somewhere you can’t see them. I’m sure many of us have said, “I thought you were watching the children!”
By letting someone know every time you’re not keeping an eye on the little ones for some reason you make sure that someone is ALWAYS watching them and keeping them safe.
Make sure to say, “I’m watching,” whenever you’re stepping in to play with the kiddos too, so that everyone can enjoy the day and not have to be on guard the whole time.
#4. Teach Them Who to Ask for Help.
This one is more for the older little ones, but once your toddler is able to converse with you about things, start bringing up what they should do in an emergency, and who is safe to ask for help (and who may not be).
For my daughters, I’ve always taught them that if they lose me and can’t find me after some time to find a friendly face and ask for them to call me (we’ll get to phone numbers in the next tip). A friendly face includes ONLY:
- Moms with children;
- Police or security officers in a uniform;
- Women who work in a store (when we’re shopping).
Basically, if they need to go to a stranger for help, I want them to find someone that is less likely to harm them and more likely to feel obligated to help them, and those are the three categories of folks that fit.
I reinforce this often, for example pointing out when we see a police officer in real life so they know what one looks like.
#5. Make Sure They Have Your Phone Number.
If they need to go to someone for help, the next important thing is that they are able to give that person your phone number so they can contact you.
Older kids can memorize your phone number, which is the best option. You can help them by making a fun song about it! Repeat it many times until they have it memorized. My little brother memorized our number so fast he would have to repeat it several times for the person to be able to write down the phone number.
If your little one is too young you’ll want to have your phone number on their body somehow.
You can write your phone number on the inside of their shirt with a permanent marker, fabric marker, or get fancy with iron-on vinyl. There is also another method of writing your phone number on a clear bandage with a permanent marker and placing it on the inside of the wrist of the child. Personally, I would only do that method if they had a long sleeve shirt to maintain personal information safe.
What I like the best is a silicone safety bracelet. I first found these on Mabel’s Labels here and quickly had some made up for my daughters, and they are perfect. They were especially handy at the water park where writing our number on them didn’t make sense. These however could get wet and stayed with them the whole time. They are even sized so they fit really well.
#6 Play the “What if …” Game
Reinforce things the day of your outing by playing the “What if…” game.
If you ask my toddler, “What if Mommy gets lost?” (they never think they are lost) he/she will tell you, “Find another mommy, take off my shoe (or bracelet or scope) and ask the mommy to call you!”
#7. Set a Meeting Place.
Whenever you’re visiting a crowded area choose a central location to meet in case someone does get lost, and point out the staff members so they can go to them if they need help.
I remember going to our meeting spot as a child when I got lost and I’m sure it saved my parents hours of searching and cardiac arrest.
#8. Remember to Take A Photo the Day Of.
One tip you’ll see in a lot of places but that’s worth repeating is that it is helpful to take a picture of your child on the day of the event.
If heaven forbid, your child is lost, it’s helpful to show anyone helping you find them a picture of what they are currently wearing. (Side note: bright clothes help!)
#9. Choose your Outfit Carefully and Play the Remember Game
Make a game of remembering what color each of you is wearing that day. If you are in a large group, wear matching T-shirts to help identify your group.
While you’ll have a picture, your little one will have a color to watch for.
#10. Teach Them to Make a Scene
Teach the child to drop to the ground and scream loudly, “He is not my daddy/mommy. HELP!” if someone tries to take them.
The Most Important Thing!
Most importantly, you’ll notice with a lot of these tips communication is key with your children. Don’t assume that because they are little they aren’t taking it in, you never know what might stick and help you out in a bad situation; it’s worth the effort!
Even when my daughters were as young as two and three years old, I would tell them 1-3 rules right before I took them out of their car seats. They knew they always needed to stay close to me when there are cars, I always have to see them and hear them in crowded places, and they need to listen to me when I ask them to follow me. I have them repeat the rules to me so I know they understand what I just said.
Staying safe is very important in large or even small crowds and hopefully, some of these tips will help your family as they have helped mine.