How To Keep Track Of Your Kid At A Crowded Event

I have one kid who's a darter. He's four now, so he's a little better than he was when he was two or three, but still, visits to crowded museums and outdoor concerts cause me a certain amount of anxiety. My most recent terrifying episode was at a crowded park, where I saw him go into the monkey bars area, then I turned to say something to my other kid, then turned back, and... he was gone.

Photo: Amy West

It was like a movie where the POV is a wild swinging of the camera back and forth: Playing kids, the tinkling ice-cream truck and — no sign of my son. My older kid and I fanned out, and eventually I spotted him at the other end of the park, playing happily in the dirt. For a moment, I had renewed sympathy for those parents whose kid fell in the gorilla cage.

Now I keep a closer eye on him, but I've also come across a few good tips for keeping track of your kid in a crowded place.

Snap a Picture

Sometimes it's easier to scan for bright clothes than for one brown-haired kid, but this doesn't work if you can't remember what they're wearing. Now I take a picture of my kids if we're going to be anywhere crowded or chaotic, so I can remind myself of what they're wearing, or God forbid, describe them to the police.

Keep Yourself in Their Sight

I used to say, "Stay where I can see you!" but then I realised they have no idea what I can see. Now I say, "Stay where you can see me," which means they (usually) don't go around corners or dart down hallways.

Set a Meeting Place

Anyone who was a child before mobile phones will remember this strategy: Make an "if we get separated" plan. At my kids' favourite museum, they know to meet at the big dinosaur on the first floor. If you're going to a sporting event, choose a large visible landmark — the hot dog stand, the ticket booth. You get the idea. Tell the kid to head there if they can't find you.

Tats

I want my kids to remember my phone number, but the younger one is still struggling with this. You can get temporary tattoos with your phone number, or in a pinch, write it on their arm with a Sharpie. Another line of defence is stickers with their name/your phone number to label their clothing. If some adult finds them wandering, the kid can show their tattoo or name label.

Walkie-talkies

If you kid doesn't have a phone, you can give her a walkie-talkie. My kids are too young for this — they'd just play with the walkie-talkie — but I imagine it would work for slightly older kids at big events such as fairs and carnivals.

If You Fan Out, Set a Time Limit

I made this mistake when I lost my kid in the park — I asked my older son to go look for him too, but I didn't tell him "come back in five minutes and meet me at the fountain", which means I was, for a brief, awful moment, wondering where both kids were.

If all else fails, there's always the leash, a totally honourable solution, IMO, for any parent with a darter. If my kid runs again, you can bet I'm going to totally strap him to my side. In the meantime, if you see an unaccompanied kid waiting by the dinosaur at the Natural History museum, check his arm for a tattoo.


Comments

    @Leigh-Anderson Do you think some kind of GPS tracker placed somewhere on your child is a good idea? Not sure how well they work, perhaps well enough to get within shouting distance?
    Something like one of those key-finder thingys?
    I was at the Ekka in Brisbane last week with my toddler son & at one point was out of sight for about 5 seconds, that was scary enough! Amazing how easily it can happen. The Police were handing out free armbands that you write your mobile on. Nice one! Same as the tats/label idea above.
    Great article, thanks, all good ideas.

    A family-friendly music festival I went to last year gave every kid (and there were plenty of them) a wrist-band that had the parent's phone numbers on it.

      The Sydney Royal Easter Show does the exact same thing with giving out wrist bands.

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