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Creating Emergency Bags for Your Children

The following is written by LifeasMOM contributor Lauren:

photo source: Nasa

My husband and I are preparedness-type people.  It’s difficult for me to imagine being unable to feed my children in the event of a major disaster.  So I want to be as prepared as can be.

While we have enough food and water for an unexpected event, I think our most valuable resources are our emergency bags.

Why stock an emergency bag?

It is very unlikely that we’ll ever use our emergency bags.  In fact, I honestly hope that we never need to!  But in the event that we must leave our house quickly, we have a loaded 3-day bag that will help make life more manageable.  Whether it is a natural disaster such as a tornado or an event such as a fire or prolonged gas leak, my family can survive with their emergency bags.

I consider these bags to be insurance for us.  While I hope to never use them, I want them available in case we do find ourselves in need.

What should you stock in your emergency bags?

When making emergency bags for your own children, the contents of each bag are going to vary greatly.  My baby’s bag looks very different than my 6 year old’s bag, for example.

To decide what the bags should contain, it is best to sit down with pen and paper.  Brainstorm about what your child needs over the course of a typical 3-day period.  Which of those items do you consider essential?  Make a list and then buy all of your items.

Here’s a detailed list of the contents of our emergency bags to kick-start your own ideas:

The Baby (9 months):

20 diapers, full container of baby wipes, Infant Motrin, small bottle of baby wash, burp cloths, baby blanket, 6 onesies, 3 pairs of long pants, 2 pairs of zip-up pajamas, 3 pairs of socks, sunscreen, baby food, bottles with formula (even though I exclusively breastfeed), 6 bottles of water, 2 small teething toys, infant cup/bowl/spoon, small flashlight, $20 in small bills

The Toddler (2 ½ years):

8 pairs of underwear, 3 night-time diapers, 3 pairs of shorts with shirts, 2 pairs of footed pajamas, 3 pairs of socks, shoes, 3 small hairbows, brush, toothbrush/paste, small container of liquid soap with washcloth, 9 bottles of water, food, sippy cup, sunscreen, Motrin, Benadryl, 2 small books, large Ziploc bag, small flashlight, $20 in small bills

4-year-old:

3 pairs of shorts and shirts, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 pairs of pajamas, 3 pairs of socks, shoes, 3 hairbows, brush, toothbrush/paste, liquid soap with washcloth, 9 bottles of water, food, sunscreen, Motrin, Benadryl, books, notepad with small pack of colored pencils (no crayons-they melt!), large Ziploc bag, small flashlight, $20 in small bills

6-year-old:

3 pairs of shorts and shirts, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 tshirts, 1 pair of pajama pants, 3 pairs of socks, shoes, baseball hat, toothbrush/paste, liquid soap and washcloth, 12 bottles of water, food, sunscreen, Motrin, Benadryl, maintenance asthma meds with spacer and Rescue inhaler, books, notepad with pencil, deck of cards, large Ziploc Bag, small flashlight, $20 in small bills

 

How to Make Your Children’s Emergency Bags

Each individual in your family needs an emergency bag.  It’s important that each person have their own bag since they are stocked based on age and specific needs.  Follow these tips when building your bags:

Choose a different color bag for each child.

Assign your child a bag color and make sure they know which color is theirs, if they’re old enough.  For example, my son’s bag is blue and he knows that he is responsible for it.  If your Bags are different colors, you can quickly see at a glance if any are missing.

Brainstorm what the bags should contain.

When brainstorming necessary items, remember that the goal is not luxury here.  One or 2 small toys could be helpful, but a whole art/crayon set is over the top.  Think in very practical terms: What does my child need?  (Food, medicine, clothes)

After buying your items, pack your bags carefully with your children.

Making emergency bags is an excellent teaching time for your little ones.  Go over reasons you would need to leave your house in an emergency.  For preschoolers, count each item to make sure there are enough available.  For older kids, let them help you decide what actually goes in the bags.  Make them as responsible for their own items as possible.

Store your emergency bags in an obvious place.

Make sure everyone in your family knows where your bags are located: your spouse and your older children.  Store them in an area that is easy to get to in a hurry.  Since they’ll contain food, your bags need to be stored inside in a relatively cool place.

Schedule dates to review your bags.

It is a must that you routinely review and inventory your emergency bags.  Food expires, seasons change and children quickly grow out of clothes.  Summer clothes are minimal help to your little ones if it’s 30 degrees outside.

For my toddler and baby, I review emergency bags once a month since they grow so quickly and their food issues change frequently.  Once children reach the age of 4 or 5, I go through bags once every 3 months or so.

The most essential part of this step is writing your review time on the calendar to ensure you actually do it!

Does your family have emergency bags?

Have you ever needed to use them?  What are your best tips for preparing and implementing emergency bags?

Lauren Hill is the ‘Mama’ behind Mama’s Learning Corner, a site that features all kinds of educational ideas and tips as well as free printable worksheets. She is the mom of four young children and loves to learn alongside them.

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Comments

  1. We don’t, but I am thinking that perhaps it is time that we do. I really liked the idea about the $20 in small bills. I really appreciate this – thank you.

  2. We have one, just for our boy, and it is for daily emergencies with a lot of diapers, blanket, some toy and one clothes change.

    This is a great idea and for all the family

  3. This is a good idea! I’ve thought about a family bag before (ex. flashlight, can food, etc) but it does make sense for everyone to have one based on need. I especially like the $20 in small bills.

  4. This really is a fantastic idea. We should all try to plan ahead more as we never know what tomorrow may bring. Like you, I don’t think I will ever have to use one but life is uncertain & nothing wrong with being a bit prepared. Thanks for sharing :)

  5. We have emergency items in a specific spot but not bags…includes wind up to charge flashlight and a wind up to charge radio. I think I’m going to have to make up bags too.

  6. I have a love-hate relationship with posts like this. I love it because it is SO valuable and such wonderful advice. I hate it because it reminds me how horribly unprepared I really am. ;) Thank you, Lauren, for the reminder and the great suggestions!

    • JessieLeigh, I totally agree with you.

      Lauren, thanks for the post. My husband and I just got married a couple of weeks a go so I’m really glad I found this b/c I like being prepared too. Thanks for the tips.

      Catherine

  7. Thanks for this great reminder! I think we’ll do this as a school project. Though I do think it’s funny that “hairbows” are included as emergency items!:)

    • mom2bbjandag says:

      I thought the same thing, but if you have a young daughter, you’ll understand that deviation from the routine creates lots of drama, and certainly, not being able to properly fix her hair will add to the fuss. :) In a time of stress and distress, managing the seemingly simple things can help avoid major meltdowns.

  8. These are great tips on getting started with emergency kits! Some other things included in our bags are copies of insurance cards, listed allergies and medical conditions, and family contact information in case the children get separated.

  9. Wow, nicely laid out post. We have lived through emergency situations where the power was gone for more than a week, but we have never “been on the run” so to speak. These would be very handy to be able to grab quickly.

    I’m trying to figure out a way to work it with a large family, it seems a little overwhelming for our crew of six kiddos (9 y.o. and under) to have so much left in a “reserved” state that may go unused eventually. Any suggestions?

    • Polly – I only have 4 kiddos, but I struggled with that too.

      Clothing was my biggest issue. I didn’t want to have a lot of money wrapped up in these bags if I could help it. So for the clothing portion of them, I only put in old/stained/faded clothes. As long as there are no holes and they have all of the seaming, buttons, etc they go in the bags. I’m guessing I won’t care how those clothes actually look as long as they are clean.

      So with that being said, I use hand-me-downs that we receive and wouldn’t otherwise wear. I’ve also purchased from Goodwill on their cheap days to stock these bags too. Even with just my 4, the clothing costs can be expensive!

      And it makes no sense to use ‘good’ clothes in these bags. If they have ‘good’ clothes, they need to be wearing them!

      For some reason, I can handle the food/water issue easier. I literally see that as insurance, knowing that we are paying for it only to (hopefully) never use it. But I do try and buy those items on sale with coupons though if I can.

      Once I could wrap my mind around it being insurance, I saw the whole reserve issue in a new light. I hope that helps. :)

      -Lauren

      • For clothes, you could buy a size up, and rotate it into normal usage once they move into that size.

        For food, we use foods with a long shelf life (a few years), then when we go through the bags, if any of the food is going to expire before the next time we plan to go through them, we pull it out, replace it with something else, and use the food that was in the bag.

        • mom2bbjandag says:

          Great ideas about the clothes, both in using hand-me-downs, nearly worn-out, or thrift shop purchases, as well as buying one size larger and rotating them into normal wear when the child grows into them. Just don’t put them away and forget about them :)

        • i do the same thing with one size up clothes. and we keep a list on the outside of the box where these items are kept as to when food is about to expire, so we eat it and buy new food to replace it back in the kits.

      • Nothing in the packs needs to go to waste- I know a family who has a picnic at general conference every 6 months eating all the stuff out of 72 hour kits and then replaces it.

    • i grew up with a 72 hr kit and there were 8 in my family. we had a monthly to every other month “freshin up” on our kits when we would change out our water and food. clothes were often used and replaced as my mom did laundry because we just didnt have the money to buy extra clothes for the kit. Then we each kept our own bag in our closet. My kids also have a personal first aid kit (bandaids & hand sanitizer) and a wallet with their money, contact info and family photo.

    • DianeMargaret Miller says:

      I keep everything packed EXCEPT clothes in her bag.

      It will only take a couple seconds to grab an outfit or two and some PJ’s (I DO have socks and some, larger than she wears, undies in there).
      It’s easy to keep clothes for US in our bags, since we’re not growing anymore, but a kid…..

  10. I just saw this in Parents Magazine and thought about doing a blog post too. Is that where you got the idea? Great post — I think I’ll just link to yours instead! :)

    • Actually, I’ve had these for several years. Once we had 3 children, it got too hard to think of what we should grab if we had to leave immediately for some reason.

      This makes it super easy!

      -Lauren

  11. I keep a few bags like this around — mine are all LLBean handled bags, but backpacks are a better idea. I also put everything in minipacks in gallon ziploc bags — the bags are so useful for wet clothes or to keep potentially crumbly, leakable or otherwise ruinable items separate from everything else. I would also add to put a name and address card with phone numbers for emergencies in case of (God forbid) separation from your kids.

  12. Great post, Lauren! What a fabulous idea!

  13. We have a bag for myself and one for my hubby. My bag has everything for DD as well, since she’s not even 2 yet.

    One thing I would suggest with your bags is to pack more diapers for the 2 year old, and possibly a few that would fit the 4 year old. In an emergency, things are stressful, and that can potentially cause regression.

    One thing I did with my bag is that I overpacked, and put it all in a wheeled garbage can. That way, it’s easy to get out quickly if necessary, and once we reach someplace at least moderately safe, I can jetison anything we don’t need. Since we don’t know what the nature of the emergency could be, I figure it’s best to at least have more stuff available to us, and if we end up ditching some, then that’s too bad. Also, if in the emergency we determine that we are missing something, it’s possible that we may be able to barter something we do have for something we are missing.

  14. mom2bbjandag says:

    Yes, we have emergency bags as well as a stocked emergency pantry in our basement, for an extended period during which we might have no electricity or running water.

    In my own emergency bag I have included a flash drive, on which I have photos of items in our home, photos of each room as they are now, scanned pictures of our wills, living wills, insurance cards, and social security cards, etc.

    I have also created a secure document that has banking, insurance and medical information, and another document that includes a day-to-day schedule for children’s activities, bill-paying, and other important events.

    Another important document is a personal page for each of my children that lists what they like to eat, what they dislike, their bedtimes, chores, and other information.

    And finally, after going through a year-long temporary custody of another child, I decided to print a Power of Attorney (for medical care, school, activities, finances, etc.) for each child, designating my mother as the guardian. A copy is on this flash drive, and my mother has the signed and notarized original. This will allow her to make decisions on behalf of the children without having to go through a legal process should she ever be left temporarily in charge.

    Obviously, some of these documents would be necessary if we lost our home to a physical disaster, and others are for an emergency where my husband and/or I might be unavailable and someone else must care for our children without our input.

    Sorry that got so long, but this has been a huge project for our family, and I am so very glad it is done. I really do sleep better at night.

    • Wow – what wonderful information! I can imagine that took a lot of organization, prep, and WORK.

      You gave great ideas about what to store on a flash drive. And you can find flash drives fairly cheap these days.

      I do have a laminated card with emergency contact info in each child’s bag. Thanks to the reader above that mentioned that – I forgot to add it in the original post! It has contact info, plus their current meds, allergies, height/weight, etc.

  15. Another idea for documentation-I once had a friend suggest that when traveling internationally you should make a high resolution scan of the important pages of your passport and then email them to yourself-that way if you passport was lost or stolen you could go to an embassy, pull up your email and have a head start on getting a new one made.

    It seems to me a flash drive could be lost-so as a “backup to your backup” you could also email scans of the important documents to yourself-then as long as you could eventually make it to somewhere with internet access you could pull down and print the copies.

  16. Please do not email unencrypted copies of your passport to yourself. Email is inherently insecure, and is not safe for *any* private information.

    I recommend looking into options to encrypt files before putting them anywhere besides your own computer. Even on your own computer, they aren’t completely safe, but if you email them, or put them in dropbox, or even carry them in a flash drive, you are putting your data at risk if the files are not encrypted with good encryption. (Note that there is good encryption, and then there is bad encryption. If the system you are using to encrypt does not tell you what type of encryption they use, chances are good that it’s bad encryption (has flaws that could cause the bad guys to get your info). Some good encryption methods include: RSA, AES, Blowfish.

    I’ve currently chosen to use primarily AES for my own files, while using RSA/GPG encryption if I need to send an encrypted email to someone else. It’s not perfect, but it gives me a very high level of security. I know that even the best hackers could not get into my files.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Well, I had not thought about that. Thank you for pointing that out! Hackers are not our friends — in emergencies or not. What a well-thought out reminder.

  17. I live alone now that my daughter has taken custody of her daughter back and moved in with her boyfriend. I will continue to have a go bag for my granddaughter and grandson even thought they no longer live with me. But while reading this I realized I really need one for myself now because I would have no where to go and no one to help me financially if I ever found myself in an emergancy. I had forgotten that as a mom even when no one counts on you any more you still have to take care of yourself and be prepared.

  18. Love your idea about paper money. One of my recycle plans is to use the M&M cylinders for quarters. Small ones hold over $10. I keep one in the car.

  19. Julie H says:

    Coming back to this post b/c I need to add more to our bags and change out the clothing!

  20. I just came across this on pinterest, great suggestions. We keep a small overnight bag packed for our almost 3 year-old and have had to use it a couple of times. My husband is in law enforcement and unfortunately I get those phone calls in the middle of the night letting me know there has been a shooting and I need to go to the station (Thankfully not very often though). Having a bag has been a lifesaver, especially when I have no time to pack one and have to drop off our son in the middle of the night. Thank you for some more great suggestions on what to add to his bag!

  21. Another thought is to make sure that you have a current picture of each child in your bag, and a family picture in each child’s bag. Again, hoping you would never have to use it, but at least someone could identify you as the parents if you were not able to do so.

  22. We actually make emergency bags for a living and are looking at starting these bags for infants! We have a 7month old and realized we don’t have anything packed for him. So this is great for a start! Check out our premade bags at http://www.blackwolfprep.com.

  23. I have an emergency binder but the only time I get a bag together is when there is a tornado headed our way. I need to be more prepared. My binder has all social security cards birth certificates current photo of kids medical information and contact #s, even our monthly bills and bank info and an emergency credit card. Tornado season is around the corner so obey yet get on this. Thanks!

  24. Melissa says:

    I suggest making these to last at least 3-4 days. Try not to include food that has under a 1 year expiration date so you don’t have to rotate as often. Also avoid super salty stuff as it can dehydrate you faster and you will go through your water faster.
    I keep 3 bottles of water in each bag and 2cases of water near them along with a water bottle that has a filter and water purification tabs in each bag. Keeps down on the weight in the bags and as long as you can find a source of water you can treat it yourself.
    Add some waterproof strike anywhere matches and some firestarters. I keep 2 sterno cans in each of the kids bags and 3 in each adult bag totaling 10 which gives me heat for 3 days worth of meals. We keep an aluminum (light weight) pot attached to one of the bags. I pack food that does not require heating but would be much more enjoyable with heat! Consider adding a couple paint can alcohol heaters to your stash as well. Don’t forget extra alcohol!
    Everyone should have a flashlight (crank or solar preferably) but if its a battery operated on do not keep the batteries in it tape them to the outside and include 3x extra batteries for it. Cheap solar yard stake lights make decent light sources. I also keep several glow sticks per kid bag (entertainment and light source)
    A tent, the smallest and lightest weight your family can fit into, more than 1 if need be.
    A Good multi tool and knife. I have a gerber gator jr in my bag and a leather man tool and each bag has a great pocket knife. Hubs has his own array of knives. I can use my gator to cut small limbs for firewood, clear brush and many many other things.
    Duct tape and first aide kits should be mandatory :) one small general on per bag and a more extensive one in each adult bag.
    Sweat suit and a tee shirt are great for these bags and can usually be found in almost any size a thrift stores. If the weather is hot cut off the pants or roll them, the layers from the tee and sweatshirt will help keep you warmer. Extra socks and if you have any kid who has had even one accident in the past 2 years pack them a few pull ups just in case. Feminine supplies should be in these bags as well you never know and stress can trigger it.
    Use neutral colored (but not military ish) bags so you don’t stand out as a “Prepper” and make your family a target. People suck and in any situation that requires these bags someone is bound to take advantage when they see an opportunity.
    Sham wow towels a wash cloth with a bar of soap in a ziplock (liquid soap is more likely to ruin stuff) is a great way to keep clean but consider baby wipes for everyone and a roll of TP or two. Remove the cardboard and smash it flat, I used a half roll (grabbed it out of the bathroom half way thru) per bag. I do keep a small travel size bottle of liquid Castile soap double bagged in ziploc for cleaning other stuff like the pot and utensils and water bottles, I can use it on people too :)
    With the food don’t forget utensils if needed. A space blanket is okay in a pinch but a light throw blanket will go a long way for moral. I pack both. A dust mask is good too there are many kinds, spring for a good one. In natural disasters many times there is a lot of crap polluting the air that is not safe to breathe in. Even a bandana over your mouth and nose is better than nothing. Oh can opener too!
    I have each bag ready for 3 days minimum ours have more than what I have listed but this is a starting point. I also have a Baggie with ones and a roll of quarters each person. And a luggage tag inside the bag with a family photo and scaled down photo copy of that person’s photo ID, birth cert and SS card and medical ins card, and a contact card and a medical info card (blood type, allergies, medical conditions, medications etc)
    I have a binder I use all the time with more of our important info but I keep back up copies and family ID sheets in my BOB including everyone’s fingerprints and a hair sample. (OCD maybe but not every disaster is the end of the world, sometimes its that your kid got snatched from a playground and its helpful for police if you have these!)
    Have an out of state contact you can relay messages to sometimes a text will work but not a call and if you get separated you may not be able to contact each other because of the towers in your area but you may be able to contact someone out of state.
    I have a duffel bag and wheeled suitcase that I keep extra supplies in so that if I know we will be gone longer and can travel by vehicle I have more supplies available.
    One of these days I’m going to just do my own blog on preparedness maybe then my comments wouldn’t be so long winded :)

  25. As a mother of five small children I’ve come to realize that in an emergency my husband and I would be the ones carrying most or all of our emergency supplies plus our smallest children. Just the food and drink alone is a lot of weight to carry. So we’ve parred down our emergency supply list to just life-sustaining essentials. Items like coloring books and special toys are low priorities to us. We keep our kits in small rolling suitcases so the older children can “pull their own weight” as much as possible. In addition to food and water I also keep a pack of large sized disposable diapers, a sharpie pen (So I can write identifying information on my small children underneath their shirts in case our family got separated), and cash in small bills.

    • DianeMargaret Miller says:

      Oh yeah!
      I thought about that one too! A 3 yo is not going to carry her own pack for long!!! :\
      All of our backpacks, convert to rolling bags…..that way we can wear OR drag them!!!
      I think MINE was the most expensive at $5 (a lovely Nike one!)!
      It’s amazing what you can get at the thrift shops, right after school lets out!!! (I guess having the same backpack for your entire school career is taboo now, or something!)

  26. DianeMargaret Miller says:

    Just a thought…

    Instead of liquid soap and a washcloth in their bags (and I’m talking ALL of them, even yours!!!), Johnson’s makes a wet and wash cloth. I saw them at my local CVS yesterday even!
    They are made for babies but ANYONE can use them (I used them for washing after my c-section because they are so very soft and the soap is so mild!)! It doesn’t even matter if it isn’t rinsed off as well as it should be…it’s that mild.
    Since the soap is on them, there wouldn’t be any additional liquid that might accidentally spill or leak, just tuck a couple in a ziplock!
    Also, since they are disposable, there wouldn’t be a damp cloth to carry around in the pack after use (although they wash up nicely, even in the washer, and then you can use them as wipes for spills!).
    I STILL carry several in my car at all times!
    You just never know when someone will get SERIOUSLY messy…too messy for a mere wipe to handle!!!

  27. Fontaine P says:

    One tip I like for emergency bags for kids is to pack sweatpants. They are forgiving as far as too-big/too-small goes, and if it’s really really too hot, you can just cut the pants into shorts.

    Also, bagging like items together (clothes, light, food, etc) makes checking and updating them quicker and easier.

    For my son, when he was little, I bought some liquid baby formula to keep in his kit. It wasn’t ideal, but better than nothing in an emergency.

  28. I’d like to add that in the emergency bag to add a paper with emergency phone numbers in case you get separated in an emergency. I also wrote my childrens blood type in case of extreme emergency where I wasn’t able to speak for them.
    Also if they are allergic to anything a rescuer would need to know. I also laminated mine to prevent water damage

  29. Juliane says:

    Don’t forget the pets. Bottled water, small bag of pet food (we usually keep several one meal servings in ziplock bags) leash, spare collar, current pic of pet, license and immunization info and any meds !

  30. Hi do you suggest any specific size backpack for the 6 yr olds? Would a 15″ bag fit all the items you recommend or should I get something larger?

    Thanks

    • Do you have a few sizes at home that will work? Since it’s “hopefully” just going to sit and not be used, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on the bag. I bought them for a couple bucks at back to school clearance.

  31. This is a great article. I don’t know if you’re still following the comments for this post after all this time, but I thought I’d ask a question anyway.

    In the event of any disaster of sufficient magnitude to force the evacuation of your home, would your children be responsible for actually carrying their own bags or just for making sure that they remember to bring them? I ask this because, even if you have a vehicle or access to one, the nature of any given disaster might force you to travel on foot whether you had originally intended to or not.

    Given this possibility, I noticed the amount of water in each bag. The children who were 2-1/2 and 4 at the time this post was written, for instance, are each carrying 9 bottles or water. Presuming that these are standard 500ml bottles, that’s over two liters (or half a gallon) each. Given that water weighs about 8 lbs per gallon, not including the other contents of the pack, this would probably be more than most children of that age would be willing (or even able) to carry for any distance. Just something to think about.

    • You make an interesting point. I come from the perspective that it’s better to have it stocked away and leave it behind along the way than not to have it at all. It’s hard to guess whether one would be traveling on foot or car. One can hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I personally would carry my kids and/or their stuff if need be, but I’d rather have more than too little on the outset.

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