In an emergency situation, kids and babies are going to need different items and to carry them differently than an adult might. While adults can carry many things and can focus on improving their situation, children are usually not able to help carry much of anything and will just be looking for comfort during these scary times.
72-hour kits for kids and babies should be packed with convenience and comfort in mind. Think of whatever is in your current diaper bag and multiply it to last at least three days. Food, clothes, diapers, wipes, blankets, medication, and toys or comfort items are all usually found in a diaper bag and are equally important to have for your child in an emergency. Gather all those items together, group it all into labeled Ziploc bags to then be organized into a larger bag. Make a list of last minute things to grab and you are ready to go!
Emergency preparation for kids and babies should not be complicated as they really only need the basic supplies and cannot carry much. Packing these kits in conjunction with other family members’ bags will give you a good overall picture of what you have, how much you will need to carry collectively, and who will carry it all.
What Should I Include In My Child’s 72-Hour Kit?
Every 72-hour kit should include basic, everyday items that you need to survive. Food, water, clothing and shelter should be your top priority for everyone. But there are a number of different things to take into consideration when packing for a young child that you will not have to worry about for adults. This is especially important for small babies and toddlers.
Here are a few things to think about and decide what is best for you and your family’s situation.
Packing Food for Babies
Newborns and infants will do best if they can continue eating as normal whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding. Regardless of how your baby eats, you will need to take the extra water into consideration for either baby or mom. Including infant formula in every baby’s kit is a good idea to have as a backup in case mom and baby are separated for any reason.
Formula can be stored either in premixed bottles, or a scoopable powder. There are pros and cons to both. Premixed bottles are quick to use, and already have the bottle and water so you don’t need to store anything else with it. They can be more expensive though and usually take up more space. Depending on the brand they can also have a shorter shelf life, so make sure to rotate them more frequently if you choose to use them.
Scoopable infant formula can be stored in larger quantities easily and is much less expensive. You will need to make sure you have enough water to mix with it as well as clean bottles. Also keep in mind that you will need supplies to clean and sterilize the bottles frequently as well as a clean place to store them.
Glass bottles are usually a great, easy to clean option as compared to plastic ones. But keep in mind that glass can break easier, so use a mix of the two or whichever one you think will work best for your child.
Food for Toddlers and Younger Children
Other food options for older babies or toddlers that store well are baby food pouches (again, avoid glass where possible), freeze dried yogurt, fruits, and vegetables, and infant cereals. When adding or rotating food in your 72-hour kits, always put in things that your child will currently eat and actually enjoy. An emergency is not the time to try new foods or hope your child will eat vegetables when they usually turn them down.
Treats and fun snacks are also a good idea to have on hand in an emergency situation. They can do wonders for a toddlers or young child (or adult really!) who is out of their comfort zone and needs a distraction. Fruit snacks, suckers, or little cookies all store really well and are worth the space they may take up!
Toddlers and younger children can generally eat the same meals that you pack for the rest of your family. Take into consideration any adjustments that need to be made in preparation so that your toddler can eat them safely and independently.
Diapers and Wipes
There is a lot of debate when it comes to what type of diapers to pack in a 72-hour kit. Diapers are going to take up a lot of space regardless of what you choose, especially if you have multiple children using them. You will need to choose an option that works for you that will also take up minimal space while still getting the job done.
Disposable diapers arguably take up a lot of space compared to reusable ones but they are very straightforward to use. If this is what you and whoever else regularly changes the baby are used to, you need to at least have some on hand. A 72-hour kit only needs to hold enough diapers for about 3 days, which could be between 15-30 diapers depending on the age of your child.
The biggest issue with disposable diapers is that once they are gone, they are gone. If an emergency lasts for more than 3 days you will be stuck relying on what you can find. And if we learned anything from the last few years, it is better to be prepared now and not depend on finding it in the stores. This is where cloth diapers may be the better option.
Cloth diapers can be reused repeatedly so there is technically less to store, but can come with a pretty steep learning curve if you have never done it before. They tend to cost more up front, but it is a one time cost that will last for years. Cloth diapers can be a great option as you can use them for the duration of an emergency, but you have to be prepared and willing to take care of everything that comes with cloth diapers.
If this is the route you want to go, practice with them now. Use them with your child now to make sure you know how to use them and have everything you need for diapering and laundering, including the extra water needed for washing. Don’t wait till you absolutely need them to realize you are missing a waterproof cover!
The best option would be to use whatever you are currently using now, or a mix of both disposable and reusable. Have a set of whatever you choose for each child that is in diapers, and then maybe a backup cloth diaper or two. Make sure to have plenty of wipes on hand as they can be helpful in many situations. Being a bit over prepared will help more in the long run, especially when it comes to diapers.
Clothing for Kids and Babies
Clothing can be tough to pack and store as children grow so quickly. Some kids can grow two sizes in six months time! One way to stay on top of it is to pack clothing a few sizes larger than their current size. Clothing that is too big is better than clothes that are too small and you won’t have to stress too much if your child grows quickly.
A good way to remember when to switch out the clothing is to just do it when you are changing out sizes in their closets. Packing a few sizes up will help create a buffer as well in case you miss a rotation.
When choosing which outfits you pack for your kid, choose clothing that is going to be comfortable and easy to move around in. As you will hopefully never have to wear anything you pack, you can pack inexpensive clothing found at thrift stores or hand me downs from friends and neighbors. If you have multiple children, a great option is to purchase neutral colored clothing that can be handed down through your children’s bags.
Choose clothing that will work best for the general climate in your area, with few additions for the extremes. Make sure your child has clothing that will keep them clean, dry, and protected from the elements, be that rain, wind, snow, or heat. Rotate these out every six months, or seasonally as winter gear will do little good in the summer.
Good walking or hiking shoes are also essential to pack in your bag. You never know what you will be wearing when you have to leave your house, and you will want to change into good shoes eventually. It may be tempting to put in old shoes that your child has worn out, but keep in mind that you want these to be comfortable and easy to walk in for extended periods of time without becoming painful. They may be an investment to keep up, but they will definitely pay off in an emergency especially if you are forced to head out on foot.
Blankets and Bedding
Young babies and children lose heat quickly and adequate blankets will be key to keeping them warm and healthy. Choose warm blankets as well as emergency blankets to store with your child’s kit. Small sleeping bags can also be helpful if your child is old enough and can sleep in one safely.
You will also want some thin cotton receiving blankets to use for warmer nights, as shade from the sun, or even in a medical emergency. These blankets fold down well and you can store multiple blankets in a small amount of space.
Toys and Comfort Items
Having a toy for your young child can be the difference between complete chaos and maintaining everyone’s sanity. Children get bored very quickly and will need things to entertain them. Crayons and a notebook, reusable drawing pads, a stuffed animal, or a book are all good options. Basically you will want anything that inspires open ended play, has no batteries, and is comforting to them.
Medication and Other Helpful Supplies
Any medication that your child is on regularly should be made note of and grabbed on the way out. Prescriptions don’t come with backups usually, so you will need to just make sure you bring their daily supply.
Other over the counter medications can and should be packed beforehand. Items such as baby ibuprofen or Tylenol, gripe water, cough syrup, and a basic first aid kit are all super useful to have on hand. Anything that you want to have at the ready in your cupboard should also be put in your kit in case anyone gets sick.
Any other baby items that you use everyday should be considered when packing a 72-hour kit for kids and babies. Nasal aspirators, diaper rash cream, fingernail clippers, teething gel, and gas drops are all things that are very helpful and can save you some heartache in an emergency.
Bathing kids can be a bit of a challenge when you don’t have a tub and have limited water. Extra wipes in a sealed bag or a washcloth with a bit of soap can be used to wash your kids instead. Be sure to pack enough soap or wipes for as many children as you have for at least one or two ‘baths’.
If you choose to purchase a ready-made 72-hour kit for a young child, make sure to go through it and take out the things they will not, and sometimes should not, have on hand. Pocket knives, matches, and first aid kits will become more of a hindrance than a help if your 3-year-old has access to them. These types of items can be stored in another family members’ bag or in a general family bag until your child is old enough to know how to use them safely.
Some emergencies will require you and your family to shelter in a large facility or with many other people. You also may be traveling through large crowds of people who are also heading for shelter. Having some form of identification on each of your children and on their bags will be critical to ensuring their safety if they are ever lost or you are separated.
Children and babies can wear ID bracelets with phone numbers, names, and any medical information written on them. You may also want to include a family picture in each bag so that you or other family members can be located quickly if your child is too young to speak or cannot describe what you look like.
What Type of Bag Do I Need?
The first thing to take into consideration when packing and organizing a 72-hour kit for a small child or baby is the size of the bag. If in an emergency you must leave your house, and in the even more unlikely scenario that you will be on foot, young kids will not be able to carry much of anything. They will more likely need to be carried or maybe in a stroller, so consider what you will be able to carry or add to a stroller if needed when choosing a bag for your kids and babies.
If you have a younger child that will be able to carry something, find a bag that is small enough for them to carry well or that has wheels so they can pull it. A backpack-style bag is usually easiest to carry, comes in a variety of sizes, and can have wheels.
If you are hoping to skip the separate bag all together for your small child, you can divide their emergency items between other family members’ bags. This works especially well if you have older children, teens, and adults that can all carry their own bag. You can simply add a small travel cube or a few gallon-sized Ziploc bags with clothing or food to each bag. This should help distribute the weight while not adding another bag to the mix.
Young children can carry a comfort only bag filled with toys, snacks, and a blanket. These items are usually pretty light and are going to be needed quickly so they will be ready to pull out in their own bag. Toddlers will probably also be excited to help with carrying something, and a small comfort bag will be probably all they can handle.
How To Organize All The Items Within The Bag
Gallon-sized Ziploc bags are going to be your best friends when it comes to organizing your kids’ bags. Ziploc bags are waterproof, see-through, and can be labeled easily. You can also purchase travel cubes or use vacuum-sealed bags but these can both be a bit more costly and take a lot of time to get together. You will also most likely not have a vacuum sealer handy to reseal any bag. You can get a good majority of the air out of a Ziploc bag as well, so it won’t make too much of a difference.
- Divide each outfit into a separate bag and label it with what is in the bag and the sizes. This will be very helpful to quickly see that you have an entire set of clothes together and know who it will fit. It will also keep the clothing clean and dry. You can also put the clothing back in the bag after it has been worn to keep it separated from other clean items in their bag. If you have multiple children, these individual sets of clothes can be easily passed down as you will only need to rotate the Ziploc bags instead of finding and packing new clothes.
- Place an entire day’s worth of food into one Ziploc bag. This will help you and your child see what they will be able to eat that day and keep it organized. Label the bag with what to eat with each meal and any cooking instructions. You can also label it with any food allergy or nutrition information your family needs as well.
- Place all activities or toys for your kids in a bag so that they can be pulled in and out quickly with little mess.
- Store all hygiene items in their separate bag instead of leaving them in the large section of an entire kit. This will contain leaks and spills and help keep everything organized and easy to access.
Here are some ideas on how to organize your child’s 72-hour kit with plastic bags:
Another way to organize everything is to group similar items and pack them all in a bag together. This is helpful if you have varying abilities when it comes to carrying bags and multiple people who can help. All the clothing can be placed in one, food in another, and so on. This will vary the weight and size of each bag, which will work better for a range of ages and strengths.Small children can carry their own toys and light items like blankets or other clothing, while the adults and teens will be able to carry food and other supplies.
Keep in mind though that you must all stay together if using this method. No one pack will be complete for that individual, so it is critical for everyone’s survival that you are all together.
It is not always practical to store every single item you will need within your 72 hour kit. This applies to all ages and kits as there are certain items that you need to use every day and won’t store well. This could be medications, important documents, or favorite comfort items for your kids. Create a list of these things and leave it on top of your bags. This way you will know what you need to grab in a hurry and not forget important medications and other items at the last minute.
Depending on the type of emergency situation you are in, you may be required to leave your house. You also may or may not be able to drive to where you are heading, so it is important to be prepared in case you have to head out on foot. Making sure you have options for carrying gear as well as young children is crucial to ensuring you make it to safety quickly and all together.
One of the best options for carrying small children is a baby hiking backpack or carrier. You can also use a wrap for even smaller babies. Some models can be big and bulky, but the majority can be relatively inexpensive and fold down to be pretty compact. Children will be able to ride in these over any type of terrain that you may not be able to push a stroller over.
Strollers and wagons can also be super helpful depending on the type of situation you are in. They are great ideas to keep in mind, since you probably already have one or the other if you have small kids. But try not to solely rely on them as they take up a huge amount of space in your car, and can only be pushed over relatively flat ground. Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes and you will never know what works best until it is time to move. It is better to be prepared for a range of situations and have multiple options on hand.
Practice Builds Confidence!
Emergency situations are not the most ideal time to learn how to survive with your emergency gear. The last thing you will want is to be frustrated trying to learn how to use your supplies with the added stress of anxious or scared children. Confidence comes from being prepared and practicing!
One way to help you and your children become familiar and confident with their kits is to pick a time once a year and live out of your packs for a day or two. Set up your cooking supplies and eat all of your meals from what you have prepped. This will not only help you figure out how to cook it, but you will see what types of prepped food your kids like and will or will not eat. It can also help to rotate out your food and clothing on a regular basis.
Set up your sleeping supplies as well in the basement or the backyard and see how you do! You will be able to figure out very quickly if you have enough gear stored as well as how to use it all. Show your kids how to set up the tent, stay warm in their sleeping bags, and even make a fire. Reviewing all safety information during these outings will also serve as a regular reminder on what to do, where to go, and how they can stay safe.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to 72-hour kits for kids and babies is to rotate it all out frequently. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to update your kits every six months! Little kids can size up in clothing and diapers within that time as well as change what they are eating. You want to be prepared for any stage your child is in, so make sure they are updated regularly and ready to go!