We have been in several busy places with our large, yet young, family. We visited the San Diego Zoo, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Phoenix Children’s Museum, and the Hansen Planetarium. We learned during our visit to the San Diego Zoo that it only takes one second for a child to wander off and disappear.
Our Kindergartener went to look at a lady with a parrot on her shoulder while we were finding a place to sit and eat our lunch, while we were at the San Diego Zoo. He was found very quickly, but those brief moments were the most frightening moments in my life. We were fortunate. The lady with the parrot was a zoo employee and was very observant. She noticed that he didn’t have parents with him and kept him by her side, so when the security office radioed that we missing our son, she was able to return him quickly to his family. Really, no harm, no foul, but a very important lesson was learned.
We learned that keeping the kids with the family in a busy place is a lot trickier than we’d ever imagined.
We went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City the other night to see the Christmas lights display. (I’m kind of a Christmas lights fanatic.) Immersing ourselves in the crowds at Temple Square was overwhelming. I told my sweet husband that my “Mommy-sense” was going off. So, we implemented a few of our strategies that we use to keep the kids with the family in a busy place.
One of the first things we did was prepare our children for the crowds. We told them it was going to be a busy place with lots of people. We told them they were expected to hold our hands at all times, so that we would know that they were with us. Explaining the rules and expectations before we got into the crowd helped them to know what they were supposed to do when they got into the situation.
Next, we have several games we use to help our children remember to stay with the family in busy places. We tell our children to hold onto our hands to keep them on our body because they like to fly off and do things when they aren’t held by a child. Usually, our hands “fly off” and tickle mom or the children to reinforce how important it is to keep the hands in place by holding them. My second grader loves this game. He knows that Mommy doesn’t like to be tickled much, and so he keeps one of Daddy’s hands held tightly. It’s really kind of cute.
Another game we play is “can’t go without you”. The way this works is that the parent doesn’t take a step until there are hands in the parent’s hands. If the hands leave the parent’s hands, then the parent stops moving completely. It makes the children more aware of keeping their hands in the hands of their parents. My Kindergartener and preschooler really like this game.
Of course, the baby gets strapped into the stroller (aka child containment device), and we let our fourth grader help push the stroller. It’s like driving lessons, but more controlled. She holds on to the stroller handles and pushes, but I steer. She still hasn’t earned her driver’s license, especially for busy places. So, out of respect for everyone else’s ankles, I steer, she just provides the propulsion.
Now, our children often get tired of playing their game all the time, so we assign a game to each parent’s hand, and let the kids rotate through the games. It keeps the hand holding an engaging experience, and it keeps the kids with us in busy places. A win, win situation all around, and no leashes are needed.
Do you have any ways to keep track of your children when visiting busy places? I’d love to hear about it – I’m always looking for new ideas. Let me know in the comments below.