12 Safety Tips to Prevent Losing Your Child

For children, there’s almost nothing scarier than being unable to spot a parent or other caregiver in a crowded place. The terror might even be worse for parents when a child goes missing. One minute you’re clasping a chubby little hand, and the next your heart is racing as you frantically scan the crowd trying to find your little one. Whether you’re visiting an amusement park, shopping mall, beach, or park — it only takes a few seconds to lose sight of your child. Follow these 12 safety tips to prevent losing your child in public and learn what to do if you do become separated.

It's easy to lose a child in a crowd
It’s easy to lose a child in a crowd (Photo credit: Tverdohlib.com, Depositphotos.com)

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1. Dress your child in bright apparel.

It’s a good idea to buy colorful shirts, hats, and bathing suits to make children of all ages easier to spot in crowded places. Bright colors stand out more than muted tones.

Children dressed in similar, brightly colored outfits
Dress siblings in similar, brightly colored outfits (Photo credit: alenkasm, Depositphotos.com)

Dress the whole family in similar colors to make spotting one another easier in public. Matching outfits make it easier to remember what everyone is wearing if someone gets lost, too.

To really stand out and prevent losing a child, choose yellow. Science has proven that bright yellow is the most noticeable color in daylight.

Child wearing bright yellow
Bright yellow stands out in a crowd or wherever you go (Photo credit: Depositphotos.com)

2. Designate a meeting point.

Upon arrival at your destination, arrange a meeting place if your kids are old enough to find a designated place on their own.

Choose a central meeting spot that’s easy to find, like the entrance to a museum. A tall landmark that can be seen from far away also makes a good choice, such as the Ferris wheel at a theme park or a lifeguard tower at the beach.

With young children (under age 8 or so), instruct them to stay put. Explain that this will make it easier for you to find them. Most importantly, explain that you will definitely come to get them no matter what.

Ferris wheel meeting place for lost children
Choose an easy-to-find meeting spot, like a Ferris Wheel (Photo credit: tingyaso, Depositphotos.com)

3. Discuss different scenarios and how to seek help.

Discuss different scenarios with kids so they know how to react should they become lost. You don’t want to scare your children, but it’s important they have a plan in place so they can avoid a painful experience.

Tell kids whose help to seek if they can’t find your family members. Instruct children to find a lifeguard, police officer, security guard, or store employee. An even safer, less intimidating, and more prevalent option is for lost kids to approach a mom with children.

Whatever they do, children should never leave the store, theme park, beach, or other location with a stranger no matter how nice they seem.

Lifeguards can help reunite lost kids with parents
Lifeguards can help reunite lost kids with parents (Photo credit: IgorVetushko, Depositphotos.com)

4. Keep a recent photo of your child on your smartphone.

Flip through the photos on your smartphone and make sure you have a recent image you can show others to help find your child in case he or she does go missing. Better yet, take your child’s picture on the morning of your outing, wearing that day’s outfit.

Take a photo of your child for safety's sake
Take a photo of your child for safety’s sake (Photo credit: w3design, Depositphotos.com)

5. Assign one adult to watch each child at all times.

It’s important that parents and extended family know exactly who is watching each child during public excursions. If the assigned adult needs to leave, then he or she has to ‘tag’ another responsible adult to take over. To prevent losing a child, don’t make assumptions or you may end up in a Home Alone situation, and it will not be a comedy.

This is especially true when playing at pools, water parks, beaches, or near any body of water. Drownings often occur at pool parties because adults assume someone else is watching the children.

Assign an adult to watch children at waterparks and other public places
Assign an adult to watch children at water parks and other public places (Photo credit: mimiandnanaa, Depositphotos.com)

6. Share your smartphone number.

Quiz school-age children to make sure they remember a parent or caregiver’s cell phone number in case of emergency. Kids who have their own cell phones should have your contact number programmed and know how to call you, of course.

For younger kids, write your number on their arms with a permanent marker. It will be waterproof and won’t wash off for days.

If you label your children’s clothing, make sure the labels include your mobile phone number, too.

Older child contacting parent via smartphone
Older kids can call or text you via smartphone if they become separated from your family (Photo credit: Krakenimages.com)

7. Make sure children know full names.

Many young children may not know their parents’ full names. To them, you are just mommy or daddy. Teach kids their own full names as well as their caregivers’ first and last names. Positive reinforcement (ahem, bribery) motivates kids so you may want to promise a special snack or ride for passing this quiz.

Before arriving at any crowded place, ask kids to give the full name of everyone in your group. This will help identify loved ones in loudspeaker announcements and bring families back together faster.

Children can easily get lost at a crowded beach
Children can easily get lost at a crowded beach (Photo credit: master2, Depositphotos.com)

8. Buy temporary safety tattoos or identification bracelets for kids.

When visiting crowded public spaces, temporary tattoos and identification bracelets make a great option for young kids and special needs children.

Safety tattoos make sharing a parent’s phone number easy to do. Plus, kids get a kick out of wearing them.

Temporary waterproof ID bands are great for use at the beach and water park as well as on dry land.

Personalized temporary safety tattoo
Personalized temporary safety tattoo (Photo from Amazon.com)

9. Invest in a wearable GPS tracking device.

Tracking devices can offer peace of mind. Once upon a time, GPS trackers were expensive but now they’re an affordable option for keeping tabs on kids. Buy an Apple AirTag and then get a bracelet or necklace holder to secure the tracker to your child.

Take a look at this AirTag Bracelet for Kids. It comes in a variety of fun colors.

If you think a necklace option might work better for your family, then consider buying AirTag Necklaces for Kids with adorable character decorations.

Child GPS tracker
A GPS tracker can be a lifesaver (Photo credit: SyhinStas, Depositphotos.com)

10. Use children’s books to teach safety lessons.

Choose a few good children’s books to read with your child to teach safety lessons in a fun way. Below are some helpful options to help prevent losing a child.

Parents reading a book with their young child
Reading is a non-threatening way for children to learn safety lessons (Photo credit: eggeeggjiew, Depositphotos.com)

11. Know the facts about missing children.

  • Of the half million children who go missing every year in the United States, thankfully nearly all of them (97.8%) are found, according to the Committee for Missing Children.
  • Child Find of America says that 2,300 American children go missing every day. That includes stranger abductions, family abductions, run away (or throw away) children, benign reasons like misunderstandings, and lost, stranded, or injured children.
  • In this 2019 Reuter article, the FBI states that less than 350 people under the age of 21 have been abducted by strangers in the U.S. per year since 2010.
  • Almost all children who are kidnapped are taken by their own parent, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe, says this Washington Post article.
  • 81% of kidnapping victims are age 12+ in non-family cases, according to Child Find of America.
Almost all lost children are reunited with their parents or caregivers
Almost all lost children are reunited with their parents or caregivers (Photo credit: leszekglasner, Depositphotos.com)

12. Stay calm and follow your family’s safety plan.

Losing your child in busy places is a common experience. Most of us adults remember at least one intense experience as a child when we lost sight of our parents and were sure we would never, ever find them again. Minutes later, we were reunited, and all was well with the world.

A brief separation is not the result of bad parenting or bad children. Thankfully, we can minimize the time spent apart as well as the likelihood of separation by following these safety tips. One of the most important things to remember is to stay calm, don’t panic, and follow your lost child safety plan.

Single mom and kids at hotel pool
Traveling alone with kids can be lots of fun! (Photo credit: Anna_Om, Depositphotos.com)

Learn more parenting tips.

Traveling alone with kids? Check out these travel tips for single parents.

Get tips for healthy eating when traveling with kids.

For a fun family night in, take a peek at our picks for the best travel movies for kids that parents love, too.

Take a look at these safety tips for camping with kids.

Prevent Losing a Child in Public with These Safety Tips

Remember these tips to avoid losing your child.

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Have you ever lost your child in public? Share your story and safety tips to prevent losing a child below.

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  1. The heart pounding feeling of losing sight of your kiddo is awful!! Dressing in bright colors is helpful to spot them. We would have everyone in the group wear the same color so if one of the kids got separated, others could point them to the lime green group of folks 🤣

  2. These are all really great and very helpful tips! I’m surely going to keep this in min, thanks for sharing this with us’

  3. This is awesome, knowing about for missing kids is nice. I hear a lot of cases of missing kids and it’s sad. Thank you for sharing!

  4. That happened to me once. It was a horrifying experience. However, recovery was made so much easier due to all of our kids wearing the same outfits.

  5. Losing my kids is my biggest fear when it comes to traveling. I’m definitely going to invest in trackers for all of them.

  6. We have a find my phone app on all of our kids’ phones, but I think I’m going to get some wearable GPS trackers, as well. Losing the kids horrifies me.

  7. A wearable tracking device is so smart! I don’t like to think of anything happening to family when I travel, but it’s never a sure thing.

  8. Great tips. I “lost” my 2 year old son in a restaurant years ago. It was the scariest feeling I’ve ever known. He had wondered back to the table to find his dad (who was in the bathroom). #12 is important – I was a frantic mess and that made it hard for my husband to understand what was going on when he came out of the restroom. We found the happy little guy thankfully. Thanks for the tips!

  9. All good tips. When my son was four he knew a “what if” protocol for getting lost at the mall and had both our phone numbers memorised. One day he got temporarily separated from us – I saw him calm himself and go through the protocol. It was a great feeling to see that he knew it and could use it.

  10. Indeed, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Thanks for your comment, Clay. Cheers!