Teach Little Kids What To Do When They Get Lost

With the approach of autumn, I’m trying to make the most out of every nice day with outdoor activities for the boys before are cooped up with snow for another six (eight?) months. Earlier this week, I decided to try a new park I’d heard about through the playschool. It was down in the river valley and supposed to be a kind of “wilderness adventure” that was still suitable for small children.

Off we set with our water bottles and snack packs, the three year-old bubbling with excitement over that “special surprise” he’d been promised, and the baby squeaking with delight because his brother was happy.

When we arrived, my bigger son immediately recognized the surroundings from his field trip earlier that summer, so happily trundled off to explore, all the while emitting short shrieks of pure happiness. The little guy and I followed behind, his newly-achieved bipedalism still requiring practice on sand and wood chips.

As the small one and I negotiated on the edibility of sand and sticks, stumble-tripped along bridges and walk-ways, and careened without much respect for gravity down the slides, the threenager popped back and forth, encouraging us to “come!” and “see!”, and especially to “look at me Mumma!”.

The trick of entertaining two little ones at a playground, or anywhere they might roam freely, is to keep a hand on one and an eye on the other. It can be reasonably managed when the location is wide-open, but becomes much more of a challenge when, in keeping with the wilderness theme, a clear view is occluded by trees, covered picnic areas, large rocks and play-structures.

As I tried to prevent the smaller of my boys from clambering up the rock wall like a stocky monkey, and in so doing putting the bigger kids to shame despite the encumbrance of the large bib he requires to soak up the constant stream of teething-induced drool, I scouted around for my older son: he was no-where to be seen.

After calling his name a few times, I grabbed the baby and carried him off despite his loud and plaintive protests to search for his brother.

I spotted him soon enough, standing on the other side of a faux boulder, but he was too small to see me. Tears streamed down his red, sweaty face and he was clutching his little hands together as they shook with fear. I ran to him, jostling his brother and spilling some of their sippy cups in the process.

I lost! I lost Mumma! I lost!” was all he could say, his little heart beating rapidly through the hug he gave me.

When he had calmed down and was fortified by several grubby handfuls of cheerios, I talked to him about what to do if he was lost again.

“Look for a Mummy,” I told him. We played spot the mummy for a minute or two. When we had successfully distinguished between mummies and other children, park attendants, trees and flowers, I gave him a script:

“You say, “Can you help my find my Mummy?'”.

He repeated it back to me, and we rehearsed it, each time with a bit more confidence.

At home later, he said again, “I was lost, Mumma!”. I reminded him of what we’d discussed he should say. I wondered if it was sinking in, if the reiteration was just going in one ear and out of the other.

Then this morning walking our dogs, he met a new dog and their owner.

“That’s my Mummy! Are you a Mummy? Mummies help me find my Mummy!”

strangeer danger kids parenting The Hollyhock Door







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  1. Well done! Great advice … and sounds like you handled it like a pro!

    (I’ve started trying to teach E my cell number. So far we’re at 780 – is 😉)

    1. Thanks Yve! I’m working on it! Had a little panic in the car afterwards. Great idea to teach the phone number! Have you seen those phone-number bracelets on Pinterest? My two would probably just rip them off, but maybe worth a try?

  2. That’s so smart to mention the colour of your hair. Easy for them to grasp that. It’s hard to keep an eye on them. When we went to the water park when baby was still more of an infant, toddler went into the water and we sat on the sidelines watching. Whenever I’d take a few seconds to look down at baby and then back up to find where toddler was….there were a few times when it took longer than a few seconds to find her and every episode of CSI runs through my mind when that happens! Scares the crap out of me. Good advice! Thanks for linking #famjamlinky

  3. Hey Jennifer,

    I came over on SHINE, and I’m glad to find your post.

    I think this is some very wise advice to share with our kids. Although mine are now in college, I am still teaching them lessons on who to trust.

    They have to trust some of the people some of the time! We can’t always be there for them. Think your words are very wise today!

    Shared your post here: https://www.pinterest.com/melredd/blog-link-parties-and-blog-link-ups/

    Hope you have a blessed day~

  4. I think stranger danger is too important to stop teaching altogether, but I agree with your point about a mum (or dad) with their own children. They will empathise with the child, knowing how they would feel if it was their child. #brillblogposts

  5. aw, poor lil guy. Scary moments, but I completely related. There have been times when I look down for a second and Mads just bolted to another area of the park. Very smart on the “look for moms” and also what he should share with them. I’ve got red hair too – may be using this! Thanks for sharing! {visiting from the SHINE link up}

  6. That’s a really good idea to teach him to look for a mom. I recently had a similar experience with my 8 year old at a park. It’s a big park but I wasn’t far from him. However, his brother was at the sprinklers while he was at the play structure. He was playing with another little boy so I went to grab my stuff from the sprinklers and grab his older brother as we were getting ready to leave. Well, we had somehow passed each other on the way to the opposite place and he got really upset he couldn’t find me. Thankfully, we had run into another mother with her kids that day so when he got lost, even though he was upset, he found her and she had my number so she called me to see where I was. It, too, was a teachable moment. I also taught him to look for the park rangers that had green shirts on but looking for another mom is an excellent idea. Great post! Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks for sharing that story Michelle! I think it’s a very scary experience for kids but knowing what to do, even when they are small makes a big difference! Well done to you and your son too!

  7. Omg so true and I have never thought about it like this but you are amazing and teaching him to tell someone your features. We are always teaching the kids our real names too as if they are lost we don’t want them to just saying mommy so we say my mommy name is Jenny and daddy is paul just in case. But I love what you have taught him and I bet its sinking in. Amazing idea. Thank you ever so much for linking up to Share With Me. I hope to see you again soon. I apologize for my late commenting, just catching up on a hectic week. I appreciate all the blog support. Look forward to reading more of your SWM link ups. #sharewithme

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