Hug a Tree: Family Safety Rules for Outdoor Vacations

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My family and I just had our annual week at the cottage. Now that my kids are getting older, cottage life has gotten easier. No longer do I wish for a baby gate around the lake and gone are the days of me following toddlers around the entire week.But we certainly don’t have this safety thing all wrapped up just because they’re older. Older kids are more independent and mine like to go off exploring and visiting little friends around the lake. This year I felt like I had to keep an eye on my headcount. The thought of one of them getting lost in the woods makes me shudder.

So, I set up a few simple rules and tools that helped keep my stress levels down and my kiddos all accounted for:

1. If going exploring, don’t go alone. Always bring a sibling and if you happen to get lost, you STAY TOGETHER.

2. I reminded them of the “Hug a Tree” program. When a child is lost in the woods, they tend to wander, bringing them further away from home.  I advised my kids that the moment they feel lost, they find a comfortable tree and stay with it. Chances are, they are not far from the cottage and it’s easier to find a non-moving target!

3. My kids don’t have cell phones, but even if they did, we are so far in the bush that there’s no reception. We use walkie talkies, which are both fun and a great way to stay connected if there is a problem.

4. When you hear the bell, you head home. We have a big dinner bell that echoes through the lake. When I feel like I have not seen a child for a while, I ring the bell and they wander back. I count six little heads and send them back off to their adventures.

5. If a kid is going off exploring, have them wear a whistle around their neck. It’s a great way to locate them if they go off track, and whistles are good for scaring off the bears as well.

In the end, we survived the week and I managed to bring home the same six kids I left with.

Are you a family that camps or cottages? What measures do you put in place to ensure their safety in the bush?

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