Parent Survival Kit: A Be Prepared Checklist

Every Tuesday is Finance & Family Day at Zen Habits.

This checklist is not for emergencies or disaster survival — it’s for the more day-to-day situations that all parents must live through, and the tools needed to survive them with minimal stress and maximum happiness.

This is the survival kit that every parent should have to make it through the day and all of those little “emergencies” such as your child getting sick in the car or spilling spaghetti down her dress at Olive Garden.

Real Emergencies
A real emergency kit would include the following (for specifics, see this checklist):

  • Water
  • Food
  • First-aid kit
  • Non-prescription drugs (like aspirin)
  • Tools and supplies
  • Sanitation
  • Clothing and bedding
  • Entertainment
  • Important Family Documents

Be prepared for every car ride, for those spills and accidents and mini-emergencies and keeping the kids happy. Here are a few items to consider for your car survival kit:

  • Food. Keep a supply of non-perishable items such as crackers or pretzels or Teddy Grahams or dried fruit, and add to it some grapes or baby carrots or quartered PB&J sandwiches before you leave home. Kids are always hungry. Stopping at McDonald’s for a snack wastes time, money and nutrition.
  • Drinks. Kids are always thirsty. Bring water bottles or boxed juices or juice in sippy cups.
  • Toys. A favorite toy or two for little kids or Gameboys for older kids can work miracles.
  • Reading material. Chapter books, comic books, kids magazines, audio tapes (or CDs) can keep them occupied.
  • Writing or drawing. Crayons and coloring books, Etchasketch or Magnadoodle, pencil and drawing pad.
  • Accidents. Always have baby wipes. Always. Also bring extra clothes (see below) and a towel. And a first-aid kit.
  • Car problems. Jumper cables, tire jack, functional spare tire, number for towing company.
  • Others. See Extra Clothing, Baby Kit if applicable.

Extra Clothes
You should always have extra clothes packed for your kids. You never know when they’ll have an accident, or want to spend the night with their grandparents or friend, or want to go swimming at a party. Pack one bag with the following for each child:

  • Nice clothes – an outfit they could wear to a party or church.
  • Any ol’ clothes – just an outfit in case there are accidents.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Underwear (2 pairs), socks, shoes, belt (if needed), hat.

Baby kit
These will be obvious if you’re a baby pro, but if you have a baby you should carry this kit around (probably in your diaper bag) in all of the other situations in this guide:

  • Diapers, baby wipes
  • Extra clothes
  • Bottle or nursing stuff
  • Changing pad
  • Rash ointment
  • Burping cloth
  • Bibs
  • Blanket
  • Baby wash
  • Toy, stuffed animal
  • Teething ring if needed
  • Juice, baby food, snacks if appropriate
  • Fever medication, thermometer, sunscreen, band-aids

When you get a babysitter (and be sure to do so and get some alone time!), give the babysitter the following info:

  • Your cell phone number
  • Where you’ll be
  • Family members or friends to contact in case of emergency
  • Emergency numbers: hospital, doctor, poison control
  • Any special info about your kids: disabilities, allergies, health problems, special conditions or needs
  • Food to feed them and any special food needs or wants
  • Snacks, bottles, baby food
  • Naptime or bedtime info
  • Any other info about TV or computer or video game policies, tantrums, prohibitions, pets, diseases
  • Medicine, baby care stuff, bathtime stuff

Anywhere kit
Actually, this list is for whenever and wherever you’re out with the kids, out of the car — restaurants, the mall, a party, someone’s house, the park. Pack a bag with the following:

  • Baby wipes (always!)
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks (see car kit)
  • Activity or book
  • Band-aids
  • Baby kit if needed

Other family day articles:

  • 27 Skills Your Child Needs to Know That She’s Not Getting In School
  • How to Become a Patient Parent
  • How to be a Great Dad
  • Organize Your Family with a Family Binder
  • 50 Grocery Shopping Tips
  • Best All-time Children’s Books
  • How to Teach Your Kids Good Habits
  • Get Your Kids Outdoors
  • 100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids for Free or Cheap
  • Family Day and Family Meetings
  • Baby Makes Eight: Raising Six Kids, Part 1 (Finances)
  • Baby Makes Eight: Raising Six Kids, Part 2 (organizing)

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