Kiddo Control: Or how not to lose your children in a theme park!

It is every parents fear. Just the thought of loosing a child in a busy theme park is enough to make any parent's heart pound and palms sweat. Our daughter was a very independent 4 year old on our last visit to Disney World and I was terrified of loosing my grip on her little hand after a parade and being separated as the crowds surged. Fortunately, there are a few common sense steps you can take to help keep your kids safe.

Label them - If you read my previous blog entries, you know I am a fan of my label maker. When it comes to my children I take it a step further. I ordered a dog tag for each child...not military...canine. I put their names on one side and my name and cellphone number on the other. I attached the tag to their little shoes. This insured that my "late talker" would not need to try to communicate any information should she get lost, and my fearful 4 year old would not have to try to remember our contact information when she was already scared. You could also use an id bracelet, or, if your child is a little older a Sharpie and their little forearm will work just fine.

Match them - I am lucky on this front. I have 2 little girls that love to coordinate their outfits. If can find a matching outfit for them to wear to a park, pool, or playground I will definitely have them wear it. If matching outfits are not an option, a shirt in a similar color is a good alternative. It really helps you locate your children in a crowd. Scanning a crowd or an play area is much easier when your eye is looking for only one color. If one child gets separated, you won't be put on the spot trying to remember what they put on that can show any cast member what your other child is wearing.

Photograph them - What else are you going to to when you are waiting for the bus or for rope drop? Snap a quick picture as you start the day and then you have a current picture of your child in the outfit they are wearing. Hopefully, this will be photograph you will never need.

Teach them - Talk about what they should do if they get lost. Show them what a cast members name tag looks like and let them know that is a good place to start if they need help. If a cast member is not nearby or if they are uncomfortable asking a cast member tell them to ask a mommy. Most mommies will drop everything for a child in need and will not leave them until they are back where the belong. If your child is not especially verbal, be sure you show them where your contact information is located.

Corral them - A stroller is great for keeping a little one (or even a not so little one safe). Encourage your child to use a stroller for as long as you can safely stuff them in one. If your child must walk, have a hand holding rule. If your child is young, or prone to go darting off consider a backpack type tether. I must admit that I hated the thought of a "leash" before I had children. They are children not dogs. Then I realized I put my dog on a leash for the sole purpose of keeping her safe...suddenly the "leash" did not seem like such a bad idea. I promise if you have your child on a leash I will not judge you...unless you are jerking him around like a misbehaving pup...then I will judge you...HARSHLY.

Drill them - A great thing to teach your child is to stay put if they get lost. You can quickly back track your last steps and find them. Practice "losing" a parent. Once you notice Daddy is missing you can back track your steps and find Daddy waiting calmly. When you discover him, he can confirm he was scared, but knew you would be back for him. Have him reiterate that was staying right where he was when he realized he was lost while he was looking for a cast member or a mom to help.

Prepare them - Tell them to answer your calls. This sounds totally ridiculous, but it is absolutely true. I remember a little boy named Michael getting lost on the beach. His mother became frantic. The entire beach moved into action. People formed human chains to "drag" the ocean floor. I can still remember the chilling screams of his mother as she called his name. After about 20 minutes we really began to fear the worst. About a half hour into the ordeal Michael was located. He was sitting in a tidal pool about 20 feet from his mother. He heard her frantic screams and ignored them. Why? He thought he was in trouble. He figured if he just laid low for a little while she would cool off and he would not be in trouble anymore. Tell you kids they will not get in trouble.....just answer your calls!

Should the worst happen and you find your self separated from your child, take a deep breath and don't panic. Hopefully, they will remember the stay put rule and if you back track a few steps you will find them waiting for you - perhaps never even knowing they were lost in the first place. If you cannot find your child within a minute, notify a cast member immediately. Cast members deal with lost children every day and they are pros at handling the situation. Children who have misplaced their parents are taken to the Baby Care Center or Guest Relations. A cast member will show you the way. If you have two adults, send one to the Baby Care Center and have the other stay in the general vicinity. Also, be sure to have you cell phone in hand. Hopefully, whoever locates you child will spot the id tag and call you immediately.

When it comes to keeping track of your children I am a firm believer that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Hopefully, these tips will help keep your kiddos with you, or at least speed up the the reunion should you get separated.

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