By Beth Buck
The number one rule of 72-hour kits is to always always rotate your supplies every six months. The number two rule? Customization. A baby or toddler will have very different needs compared to his or her adult parent.
For example, your average ready-made emergency kit comes with things like a whistle, matches, and a pocket knife. Those are extremely handy for adults, but what is a 6-month-old going to do with a pocket knife? Maybe we don't want to know. And you definitely don't want the toddler handling matches. Remove items a baby isn't able to use and replace them with things babies actually do need.
Remember, each person should have a kit, regardless of age. Skipping the baby isn't recommended. The goal is for each family member to be able to carry their own, kit, but obviously this isn't practical for babies. However, even a young toddler can carry their own kit if it is light enough. Here are some practical suggestions for customizing your 72-hour kits to meet the needs of the youngest members of your family.
An author I admire once said that babies are remarkably easy to take care of – just put milk in one end and keep the other end as clean as possible. To that end, a kit suitable for an infant will include some combination of the following:
- Diapers – more on this in a bit.
- Baby Wipes
- Formula (or a small hand-held breast pump)
- Extra changes of clothes. Babies grow quickly, so it is imperative that you keep your kit updated with clothing that will fit and is appropriate for the season.
- Baby wash
- Diaper rash cream
- An extra receiving blanket
- A rattle or other toy
A note on diapers: many, many people I have talked to include cloth diapers in their 72-hour kits because they are “good for emergencies.” In my experience, the only people who say that are people who do not use cloth diapers in their every day life. I used diapers for years and I love using them, but they are only “good for emergencies” if you know how to use them.
Cloth diapering requires something of a learning curve – do you know what brands of diapers fit your baby well? Do you know how to wash them properly? If you are evacuating, can you guarantee that you are evacuating to a location with proper laundry facilities? How do you feel about packing out the soiled diapers around with you for an extended period of time? Are you prepared to be elbow-deep in your child's waste? If you do not already know the answer to those questions, put disposables in your 72 hour kit, because the midst of chaos is a terrible time to try to navigate all that for the first time.
In addition, cloth diapers take up more physical space than disposables. They are euphemistically called “fluff” in the cloth diapering community for a reason. You can fit three or four times as many disposable diapers in your kit as cloth ones.
Toddlers have similar needs to infants, except they are much more mobile, curious, and opinionated. That is code for “they scream a lot and will wander away if left to their own devices.” Therefore, a toddler's emergency kit will contain a lot more recreational items to keep them quiet and in one place. These aren't optional items. A happy toddler equals happy parents. In addition to diapers, wipes, and clothing, good choices for a toddler emergency kit include:
- Favorite board book(s)
- Crayons and paper, if the child enjoys coloring
- Favorite snack-y foods. Mylar pouches of freeze-dried strawberries are very popular with my kids.
- A bean bag or small ball.
What other items have you found useful when putting together or using your kids' 72-hour kits? Please share your ideas in the comments section.