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Keeping Kids Safe: Preventing Lost Children

Updated on July 19, 2012
It's easy for kids to get lost in a crowd.
It's easy for kids to get lost in a crowd. | Source

As a parent, we have all had that sickening feeling in our stomachs. You turn your head briefly and look back and your child is gone! Usually they are found in a couple of minutes, but the knot in your stomach lasts for hours. What if they had wandered off and gotten lost?

This fear is compounded when you are visiting a crowded place, such as a zoo or amusement park, or even a busy shopping center. Your child doesn't know the place well, and it can be scary to look around and see so many people and unfamiliar locations. It's easy for the child and the parent to get overwhelmed quickly.

There are many ways to alleviate that fear when taking your children to a crowded, busy place. Although there are things you can do while there, the best advice is to prepare ahead of time and make sure you and your kids know what to expect and how to react.

Traveling in pairs or groups is safer than alone.
Traveling in pairs or groups is safer than alone. | Source

Research the Place You Are Visiting

Most public places such as amusement parks, museums, and zoos have information on their web sites regarding safety. Before you visit, review the site and make sure you understand their policies and procedures regarding lost children.

Talk with your children ahead of time about what to do if they get lost. Look at a map of the site together, and talk about what the people who work there look like (name tags, logo shirts, etc.). Let your child know how to find someone who works there and what, specifically, they should tell the employee when they are lost.

If there are information or help centers throughout the location, be sure to point them out to your children so they can find one if needed.

Teach Children What To Do if They Get Lost

Does your child know what to do if they get lost? Many parents believe their children do, but many actually do not! However, if you practice with them, it will be second nature in the fearful moment of being lost. Here are some tips:

Practice various scenarios with them, and tell them in specific terms what they should do in each scenario. For example, practice what to do if they look around and don't see you, and what to do if a someone they don't know approaches them. These are different scenarios with different responses, and should be practiced individually. The more you talk about it and practice, the more your child will react on instinct if it ever happens. It is critical that parents talk openly and often with their kids about safety, not to scare them but to prepare them.

More Tips for Preparing Your Kids

Shopping malls are easy to get lost in!
Shopping malls are easy to get lost in! | Source

Safety in Public Places

Before going to a crowded public place, make sure your children know their full name, their parents' names, and their parents' cell phone numbers. You should also make sure your children know what you are wearing that day so they can describe you to an employee helping to locate you.

No matter what you teach your children, sometimes fear can make them afraid or unable to act on your instructions. you can prepare for situations like these by having your children carry information that will assist employees in finding you. For example, temporary tattoos can hold contact information for you. Or, for a less expensive solution, try these great shoe tags!

Teach Children What To Do if a Stranger Approaches Them

I actually don't like the use of the word "stranger" in discussions with children. "Strangers" sound like scary looking people, which is usually not the case. I prefer to use the phrase "someone you don't know well." This emphasizes the truth, which is that a dangerous stranger could be a sweet-looking lady with a big smile.

When talking about encounters with people they don't know well, here are some tips:

  • Stay with your friends or parents - avoid playing or walking alone in public places. Use the buddy system.
  • A dangerous person can be someone you recognize, and may even know your name. That doesn't mean they are safe.
  • Stay a safe distance from people you don't know well.
  • If someone you don't know well approaches you, run away from them and yell loudly. Run toward other people, and yell "No!" or "Help!". Tell your parent or an employee of the location that someone approached you.
  • Fight back and yell if someone you don't know well tries to touch or grab you.

Preparing ahead of time, reviewing procedures with your kids, and knowing the location can make visits to amusement parks, malls, zoos, and other crowded places more fun and safe for all.


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    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Marcy - I've both lost one of my kids (only for a few minutes) and found someone else's. It's scary either way! Thanks for reading.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      One of the scariest things a parent can experience is a lost child - even for a few minutes! And the child is equally as frightened. Great tips - voted up and up.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thansk Mmargie! I hope you are correct!

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      TahoeDoc - my kids are 5 and 2, and I share your concern about their curiosity! Thanks for reading!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      Awesome hub! Just imagine the number of kids you just kept from getting lost! I love it!!

      Great job, Amy!

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Good job on this. Kids have natural curiosity and don't realize the ease with which they can be displaced in a crowd. My kids are 5 and 7 and these tips are great. I agree with the 'stranger' assessment. To kids, that does just sound like someone who looks strange.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks habee! It's so hard to keep track of them in crowded places, but I'm sure you are great at keeping an eye on them! Thanks for the vote and share.

    • Amy Gillie profile image

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks Robin! That's a great idea about approaching a mom...I'll share that one with my kids!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Very good advice for keeping kids safe! I worry about my 9 grandchildren all the time. Voted up and shared!

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      These are great tips, Amy. I always tell my children to find a mom if they are lost and try to stay in one place. I remember reading that women are the safest to approach, even more so than a policeman. Moms are usually the safest.