While I’m already to release to you my first Field Trip blog, I figured I better STOP and wait. First things first. Safety should always be your first consideration before heading out the door on any adventure.
I admit I am the over-paranoid mom of three young boys. I see all those horror stories on the news of children abducted and it sends shivers down my spine. I know that I can not hide my children from the world. There is a world out there that holds so much excitement and wonder for them, I can not let the actions of a few ruin it for them. So I go. But I go knowing the risks and preparing my kids the best I can.
Here are my safety rules:
- Dress Alike– Matching outfits— You’ve seen schools do it. All the kids go in the same shirt. If it works for them, why can’t it work for you? Now I am not suggesting you all have to have the same exact outfit. But if you agree that everyone will wear jeans with a bright yellow shirt. Then, your children will be easier to spot should they take a few steps ahead out of your line of sight. If the worst should happen and you are separated, you will be stressed, you will probably panic. But then at least when you are describing what your child is wearing you only have to look at yourself to refresh your memory. Same goes for your child. He/she can look at their clothes and say my mommy/daddy is wearing a ? shirt with ? pants.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Follow up with the above idea by taking a picture of the kids. You know you will have your camera for those Kodak moments. So before you even step foot into that zoo or amusement park, snap some photos of each kids, individually, full length and head shot. Event better take it with your cell phone. If the unthinkable happens, time is of the essence, the sooner you can send out a picture of your missing child, the better off you will be. Do you really want the police to be delayed as you rush home to find a picture which will never be as recent as the one you took that morning? Yes, in the excitement it maybe hard to stop and snap this picture. But it’s worth it. Make it part of the routine and before you know it it will be a good habit, you’re unlikely to forget.
- Write your cell number on their bodies. Take a pen and write down your cell number on their body. Choose an area that makes sense. You don’t want it to smear away from sweat or frequent hand washings. You also don’t want it to be an area of their body that shouldn’t be exposed to strangers. If your child gets separated, they may panic and forget even the most basic of information. If they can show the security guard or police officer your phone number, then you can be reached and reunited with your child. I have heard there are even some companies out there that produce personalized temporary tattoos with this information. (I just don’t know which ones, if anyone does please let us know in the comments below.)
- But NO NAMES. Don’t give a stranger an opportunity to act overly-friendly with your child. Do not give that stranger an opening to a conversation with your child. Do not put names on their clothes, lunch boxes, back backs. Anything that is going to be readily visible to observers should not have their name on it.
- Pack a lunch. What does this have to do with safety? If you are traveling with young children you don’t want to leave them sitting alone holding a spot at a table while you head for the lunch line. You also don’t want to have your child in line with you while you wait. What happens if while you are ordering your child becomes distracted and gets lost amongst the crowds and the lines? Don’t put yourself in that position. Pack a lunch. Besides it’s better on your pocketbook and the environment.
- Use family restrooms. I am talking about the new larger-sized bathrooms that some family attractions are starting to add. It’s usually one larger stall separated from the regular restrooms and even equipped with a changing table and large enough to bring in the stroller. It provides you the convenience and safety of taking all your children of different genders into the bathroom at one time. No more daddies having to take little girls into the mens’ room. No more mommies having to send their young boys into the mens’ room all alone. When that isn’t an option, take advantage of a handicapped stall. I will apologize to any differently-abled person I offend by doing so; but I would much rather offend a few people than leave my children alone amongst strangers in a bathroom while I or my husband take our turn in the bathroom.
- Use the Buddy system. There is safety in numbers. When you can, bring an adult field trip buddy. Having a friend or spouse with you means there are now 2 sets of eyes looking out for the kids. It also provides the kids a little more freedom and opportunities to have fun. Unfortunately, on my most recent field trip I had no buddy. So while we had fun at the Philadelphia Zoo I was not about to let my older kids explore the treehouse while my toddler was at the other end of the building climbing frog eggs. [The benefit of being a member is they can check this out another day when I do have a buddy. :) ]
- Be aware of your surroundings and give the kids a heads up too. It maybe a lot to ask. You are working hard enough to keep track of your very excited children who all seem to want to go in different directions. But you need to be on the look out for suspicious adults who appear to be watching children or acting strangely. You and your children also need to know where to go to in the event you or they need help. When we returned home this evening from the zoo. My oldest was really studying the map, asking questions, and recalling where he had been. It occurred to me that perhaps this is something we should be doing as we first enter the zoo. The zoo has special emergency phones throughout the park and staff who wear the same uniform. If I want my children to be really safe, then they must be prepared too. It’s not enough that I am trying what I can to prevent the unthinkable, I must also teach them what to do in case the unthinkable happens.
Field trip days should be about fun and making memories. They are the things that make childhoods memorable. So have fun, but be safe.
Is there a tip we’ve forgotten, please add it in the comments below. Thanks.