Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, are extremely family friendly. There are a plethora of shows, shops, activities, and dining options that the whole family can go to and enjoy. Many different groups and organizations also find Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to be hospitable and fun places to hold conventions and other gatherings. As a result of this incredible popularity, it can be a crowded place sometimes.
Family outings, especially with little ones, always have the potential to turn bad fast, and if you have more than one little one, the chances increase! All it takes is for Mom to assume Susan is holding Dad’s hand, and Dad to assume that Susan is holding Mom’s hand for little Susan to wonder off or be left.
Just a year ago, I had four children ages 5 and under. This meant my eldest was 5, I had two three year olds, and a babe in arms. One of my three year olds was also a wanderer. So I devised a plan should the worst case scenario ever occur. Hopefully you will find a few of these tips to be helpful.
Color Coordinate: When our family goes to Dollywood, the Ripley’s Aquarium, or even if we are just going to visit shops, we dress our children in the same color, and we try not to pick a color that could be in mass that day (i.e. – red or blue on the 4th of July, green on St. Patty’s Day, etc.). This makes it easier for us when we are doing a quick scan. If we are going somewhere really crowded, i.e. – the airport on Christmas Eve, I put them in matching shirts that have the number of their birth order on the back (thank goodness the kids love them). This way if someone snatches one, it may be a little more obvious to those around us. (One can hope, right?)
Shirt Tells: We can teach our children all the necessary information: parents’ names, phone numbers, addresses, etc. But chances are, if they get lost, they will be too afraid to remember it all. I have one child that I do not think could even bring herself to speak if she were to get lost. Our answer to this potential problem was Shirt Tells. On an index card, we write the name of the child, our names and relationship to the child, our cell phone numbers, and their pediatrician’s number. I have one child with food allergies, and I also include this information on his card. I go over the card with each child, and then I safety pin it to the inside of their shirt tail. This way no one can see it, and it doesn’t fall out of a pocket. I tell them, “If you get lost today, you will find a safe person, and show them your card so that they can call Mommy and Daddy, and we can come get you.” The card in their Shirt Tells all the necessary information.
Cell Phone Pictures: When we arrive at our destination, we take an individual picture of each child. I am not sure how well I will remember exactly what they are wearing or that they just got a new haircut if I am ever faced with one being lost. This way I don’t have too, and I can forward the picture to security or the police if necessary.
Safe People: The next thing we do upon arrival is to point out what a safe person is wearing. At Dollywood, we pointed out what the uniformed workers look like, when we are walking around the Parkway browsing shops, we show them where a cashier would be standing inside a store. We tell them that these are the people they are to immediately report to and show their Shirt Tell if they ever find that they are lost.
This really involves very little time, even for my crew of four. They are so accustomed to it now, that if we go to the zoo or the aquarium, they will remind me that they need Shirt Tells. And after all of this, we have a wonderful time with very little worry!