How Not To Lose Your Kids At The Science Museum #SSAWeek

Welcome to Hour Nine of the Token Skeptic Sunday Sessions!

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I’ve seen a few strategies that have worked over the years (and the following can also apply to shopping centres, fairgrounds, wherever you may have a kid who has a tendency to run off or be distracted. I should point out that the last time I went to a fairground, it was ME who got lost and the kids who stayed safe with their parent, so maybe I’m not the best… oh never mind) – so, here’s some tips!

1) Take a photo of them with your mobile phone and then delete it afterwards.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a worried parent approach me to say “She has blonde hair, a green shirt, blue trousers…”… only to have a red-haired, pink-dress wearing child shout “DADDY!!” from the other end of the Colossal Fossil exhibit.

Actually I can count – five.

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You’re frantic, confused, worried – and being told to close your eyes and say out loud what YOU’RE wearing at that very moment may be a challenge. Remembering what the child is wearing is probably going to be tough, especially if you’re not the one who helped them choose their dress that morning (or if the child dresses themselves – how the hell do you describe a boy wearing fairy wings, a Spiderman shirt and a tutu with fluro leggings and combat boots when he traded half of what he was wearing with his twin sister in the car on the way into the museum?).

Take a photo of them outside the museum JUST before everyone starts. If they get lost and you need to say “They look like this…” – you just show the photo on your phone. You can’t get more of a recent photo than that. Delete it afterwards so you don’t have dozens of “recent” photos (although you might like to keep some elsewhere – they do grow up fast after all!).

2) Have a plan beforehand if someone gets lost.

Sometimes panic sets in, and confusion if you’re lost – at least having a basic plan can help.

Have a buddy system with siblings or friends if old enough – that way they’re independent yet still safe; look at the map (in fact, make sure everyone has a map of the venue, they usually give them out for free!) and discuss some places you’ll visit first and a time that you’ll take a break. Staying put at a previously visited place is a good idea if you’re lost – and saying there until collected.

There’s also alternatives like “Go back to the entrance” if lost, and asking there to announce that you can’t find a parent/carer. Tell to someone wearing the Science Museum shirt like the person at the front desk if you can’t find an adult you know. One big distraction at museums are people doing displays or exhibitions or presentations – if turning around you discover that your adult / buddy isn’t with you, then tell the presenter and they should then raise the alert that there’s a lost child. Tell another adult who is clearly a mother (who also has kids with her) is another useful safety tip.

Decide on your plan, make it consistant and even having a set thing to say if lost when seeking help is a good idea too – that they’re lost, that their name is X and where they last saw you, if they remember.

3) Phone numbers  

I’ve seen some criticism for having a phone number written in indelible ink on an arm, due to the possible toxicity of the ink? Although it seems a sensible thing to do otherwise, I’ve also seen suggestions of removable tattoos; putting a piece of paper or card with the number of a carer or parent with it, either pinned inside a pocket or around a belt or written in indelible ink on the side of a shoe. Either way, having a mobile number that is accessible for a lost kid can be useful, and modern technology has certainly helped out in these situations.

Some of my favourite memories of volunteering include watching kids chase Santa Claus on his Segway, shows with explosions and chemistry – here’s an example of one such event, and I hope people enjoy them safely in the future.

About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.


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