Planning on a summer full of fun outings with your toddler? Trips to crowded places like the zoo, theme parks, and museums can be great experiences for toddlers… but also present dangers for young kids who can’t yet memorize and recite vital info such as names and phone numbers. It only takes a second for kids to disappear, and even the most careful and competent parents will admit to at least a couple frightening moments where their child ran off in a public place. To protect your child in these settings, here are five key strategies recommended in Circle of Moms communities.
1. ID Bracelets and Tattoos
One solution many parents recommend is putting an ID on your children. One of the more controversial ID methods recently discussed on Circle of Moms is temporary tattoos with names and phone numbers. Michelle G. likes the idea: "Knowing that toddlers CAN get separated from even the best parent, I think these are actually a good idea. Especially if you're going to be some place where you're more likely to get separated from your child -Sesame Place and Disney World come to mind. If nothing else, it would give me peace of mind."
On the other hand, Jackie is against washable tattoos, bringing up the fact that having the child's name right there on their arm or leg could make the situation even more dangerous with a child predator: "I don't want someone to know my child's name and call her and then my child to think that because they know her name it is safe to go with them."
Chloe V. suggests an alternative ID method for young children: "I'd imagine a different way to place the number would be best, like a bracelet. Or a card in their pocket. Something that only is visible if the child needs it to be." The downfall is that they can get lost or fall off more easily than a temporary tattoo.
Some theme parks have a system already in place to help prevent missing children. A user who goes by the name Medic Mommy shares her recent experience at SeaWorld: "when you walk in with small children they are given a wristband and your name and cell number are written on the underside of it. The kids are then shown a picture of all the colored shirts the workers wear and told that if they get lost or need help to run to someone in one of those shirts."
2. Child Safety Harnesses
If you thought temporary tats was a hot subject, wait till you hear what moms have to say about safety harnesses, aka leashes, for children! Using harnesses to keep toddlers safe in crowds has been a heated topic of debate for years in the Circle of Moms communities.
Dawn H. recently commented that she feels like a good mom for keeping her son safe: "My 2 year old is a runner. I put him on the harness for safety reasons. I would rather someone look at me and say, 'oh my goodness she puts her child on a leash...how mean' than my child running out in front of a car and getting hit, or him getting lost in a crowd. He doesn't mind the harness at all." Caterra P. feels the same way about using the harness with her 3-year-old son: "He is in the stage that running away from mommy is fun and a game to him. I fear for his safety at times so I take the precautions to protect him. Yes, I get those nasty looks too. I don't care. I am doing what is best for my child to ensure his safety."
On the other side of the fence, plenty of moms are against tethering children. Maggie W. thinks teaching is more important than leashing: "I just think using a leash instead of teaching your child to behave is laziness on the parents part. It took weeks and tons of patience to teach my sons to stay with me. I had to be consistent and it was HARD WORK but it's so much better now because they know how to behave. What happens with the leashed child the day you forget the leash or it breaks?"
Related Article: Leashes for Kids
3. Games that Teach Safety Skills
Work with your toddler way in advance can also make outings easier. Even before they can talk, children can play some basic games that will help them learn to listen and respond. It's not guaranteed that they will do what you want, but games such as Red-Light-Green-Light can help when you really need to get their attention.
It worked for Devon K: "Try playing the red light green light game at home a few times. Tell your child to walk or run and when you yell 'red light' your child needs to stop and then when you yell 'green light' your child can go. Do that a couple of times at home to see if your child gets the point. if so, then test it while taking a walk. i did that with my kids and it worked."
Iysha J. simple solution with her daughter is to give her daughter only two strictly enforced options: "Hold Mommy's hand or sit in her stroller/shopping cart. If she fought me with the stroller/shopping cart, I would let her cry for a couple minutes then ask her if she is ready to hold Mommy's hand. When she said no, she would stay in the stroller/shopping cart. When she said yes, i would take her out and let her hold my hand. If she wriggled away, i would get her and tell her she was going to go back in the cart because she would not hold mommy's hand. It takes quite a few times but stick to your guns. He will learn. [My daughter] doesn't throw tantrums about it anymore. She knows she only has two options."
5. Talking About Stranger Safety
In the event that your child does get lost, having them know about "stranger danger" is vital. But it can be difficult to know what is age-appropriate... and you certainly don't want your child to fear everyone (we do have to talk to the cashier, and there's no need to scream if the mailman says hi). Cliffette N. recommends watching Stranger Safety (available for purchase in a variety of formats here) with your child: "It breaks down the difference between strangers into 'don't knows, kinda knows and saftey side adults' It's hard for kids to understand the difference..."
Kate C. also has some great advice on talking to very young toddlers about what to do if they get lost. Uniforms can be confusing, and it's not wise to tell them NEVER to talk to a stranger, so she relies on other moms: "Here's what I told my little girl: Never talk to a grown up unless Mommy or Daddy is there. If you get lost go find another mommy who has kids with her and ask HER for help. When KIDS need help, they find a mommy. When GROWNUPS need help, they find a police officer."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.