Children's Adventure Bag
It’s definitely not something we want to think about. In my opinion, it’s probably one of a mama’s biggest fears. At least, it’s one of mine.
A missing child. A child that might wander off a bit too far. A child that gets lost in a big crowd. You name it, I’m playing through the scenario while we’re preparing to leave our house for an outing whether big or small. My child is a rambunctious, yet cautious, adventurer. We are on the move a lot—hiking, farmers market, parks, target, concerts, zoo, etc. We are a moving family. We are a (mostly) city family, which comes with its own unique needs. I’ve been fortunate to be able to take my fear of losing my child and channel it into some really profound conversations around adventure and safety.
Call it what you want, we’ve changed the name from safety bag to adventure bag at some point. But, it’s essentially a tiny version of a go bag. It’s a last ditch effort if things go awry.
I’ll preface with this, it’s never too late to start. While we started the conversations around 3 years old, no age is off limits. No age is too young or too old. I’ve learned from my time as a mama and also my time working with adolescent behavioral health that kids desire to know they are safe. As a mama, it’s my responsibility to ensure my child feels that with me and also feels empowered when he is alone. Conversations around safety and situational awareness are ongoing for the duration of our children’s time with us.
These conversations for us never come from a place of fear, rather they are started from a place of curiosity, teaching, and safety. We owe it to our children to provide them with the tools and resources to feel empowered in their own abilities.
Where to begin?
It can feel daunting, and even a little anxiety provoking to start these conversations within your family if they aren’t a part of your norm. Make it flow into your normal family dialogue as best as possible. Sometimes, we turn it into a game.
“Why is it important to hold moms hand in the parking lot?”
“Tell me what you would do if you got lost in the toy section at Target”
“What would you do if you found a gun at your friends house?”
“Who could you look for if you couldn’t find mom?”
“What is the first thing you would do if you were lost? What’s the second thing? And third?”
The questions can build upon each other as they become more confident in their answers and as they understand that the goal is to provide them with tools to keep them safe. The hope is our children never have to use these tools, but better to prepare them than to not. Your answers might sound different than mine, your needs might be different.
I am not naive enough to the thought—well if someone takes them, they’ll just take off their bag. Yes—probably so. And so the conversations continue to what we do if a predator approaches (a post for another day.)
These ideas are not new or original. They are not without risk. And they certainly aren’t guaranteed. But, they are what we do to assure we are preparing our child for the world in which we live in.
As a family who lives in the middle of one of the largest cities, my needs and my child’s needs are different than those of you who are living on 10 acres with very little time in large crowds. Your safety needs are going to be different than mine. Let's talk about what we put into our tiny adventure bag.
Building the adventure bag
We start with letting our kid pick out his own bag (within reason). I essentially found some cross body bags I thought he would like and let him pick out his favorite—obviously, it's covered in dinosaurs. Once the bag came in we started incorporating more conversations around the bag and it's contents. We introduced what the bag was for and why it was important to carry.
Remember, it’s fun, but there are also boundaries to be held.
This bag can be used for both fun and safety, but assuring them that the only way the bag helps is if we have it on and with the items in it. We let him put a toy or two, a snack of his choosing, and anything else that might fit in the bag that he wants to take on a particular outing. In addition to his picks, he always has bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibacterial ointment, an emergency whistle, an identification tag (with enough but not too much personal information), and a GPS tracker.
And then, we go over each item in the bag.
I teach how, when, and why to use each thing. We go back over our questions and review answers with our tools in front of us. We practice using the whistle, we practice identifying a “safe” person in public, we go so far as to practice going up to said person and role playing that they are lost and need to find me (and I’m there close by to watch and encourage the bravery it takes.)
It’s our job, mamas.
This is the greatest job we have to protect and love these babies of ours.
Let’s do it well and with a mama bear heart.
Let’s raise resilient and tactical babies.