As a parent, you always want to make sure your child is safe and cared for, even in unexpected situations. Creating an emergency child care plan can give you peace of mind that your child will be looked after properly if you become unavailable due to illness, injury, or other circumstances. Having a plan in place can help reduce stress and anxiety during difficult times. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to consider when making an emergency child care plan for your family.

Common Childhood Illnesses and Injuries


Fevers are a very common occurrence in childhood. They happen when the body raises its internal thermostat to help fight off an infection. Fevers are generally harmless in children older than three months. However, high fevers above 104 F in infants require immediate medical attention. When making an emergency child care plan, know the signs of fever, how to bring it down safely, and when you need to call your pediatrician. Keeping fever reducers like acetaminophen on hand can help in a pinch.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Stomach bugs are an unfortunate fact of life with children. Vomiting and diarrhea can come on quickly and be highly contagious. When vomiting, make sure your child stays hydrated with small sips of fluid. For diarrhea, stick to a simple BRAT diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Stock up on Pedialyte, zinc supplements, and probiotics. Know when you need to take your child to the doctor based on frequency, appearance of stool, and signs of dehydration. Having a plan for sanitizing surfaces and proper hand washing can help contain the spread.

Colds and Coughs

From fall through early spring, colds and coughs spread like wildfire in areas where children gather. Stocking the medicine cabinet with kid-friendly cold remedies can help ease symptoms. A humidifier, saline spray, and honey or cough drops for older children can also bring relief. Make sure caregivers know about any cold or cough medications your child has taken, appropriate dosing, and when to contact the doctor. If symptoms persist beyond 10–14 days or signs of an ear infection, strep throat, or breathing issues appear, medical attention is warranted.

Allergic Reactions

If your child suffers from allergies, make sure all caregivers know about them. This includes food allergies like peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish allergies, which can be severe and life-threatening. Environmental allergies to pollen, pet dander, molds, and dust mites are also common triggers for kids. Ensure that caregivers know how to use emergency medications like EpiPens and antihistamines if anaphylaxis occurs. Make safety accommodations like removing allergen triggers from the home during care.

Bumps, Bruises, Cuts, and Scrapes

Bumps and falls inevitably happen, and childhood injuries look worse than they are. Helping caregivers stay calm and know basic first-aid responses can set minds at ease if minor injuries occur. This includes cleaning cuts with soap and water, applying pressure to stop bleeding, icing bruises and swelling with wrapped cold packs, and bandaging wounds properly. While most shallow cuts heal just fine with home treatment, deeper lacerations, possible sprains, head injuries, or injuries with signs of infection require urgent care from providers like Just 4 Kids or ER visits.


Emergency child care providers

Choosing Emergency Caregivers

When making an emergency child care plan, carefully consider who you trust to care for your children if you become suddenly unavailable. Think through all possibilities – not just short errands but extended care during illness, after an accident, or family emergencies requiring travel or hospitalization. Build a network of potential caregivers you can call on.

Family Members

Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family members often top the list of emergency caregivers. They have a connection and bond that provides familiarity and comfort for the child. When possible, choose a family who lives nearby for quicker response time. Be aware of any health limitations in older relatives or scheduling constraints of working family members. Discuss roles, responsibilities, and payment in advance to set clear expectations.

Friends and Neighbors

Close friends, neighbors, and parents of your kid’s schoolmates are also convenient emergency caregiver options. You have an established trust, and your child already knows them. They understand your parenting preferences and can maintain familiar schedules and routines. Be sure to line up a few different friends/neighbors in case some are traveling or otherwise unavailable. Check that they feel comfortable handling medical situations if they arise.

Professional Childcare Providers

Using a professional nanny, babysitter, or childcare center ensures your child is in capable hands and offers flexibility when your own network lacks availability. When pre-arranging with sitters, check qualifications, first aid/CPR training, and policies on giving medications/transporting kids. Get references so you can confirm their reliability and responsibility. For centers, tour the facility, meet teachers, and ask about protocols for injuries, illness, emergencies, and dispensing medication before enrolling your child.

Out-of-Town Contacts

If a major emergency requires extended travel, identify a trusted out-of-town contact who can care for your kids for several days if necessary. Grandparents or other family members may need to travel in from afar to help, depending on the circumstances. Logistics like airport pick-ups, car seats, staying at your home, etc., will require discussion and planning. Build rapport with the caregiver through video calls so your child already knows them. Share as much information as possible about your kids’ schedules, needs, and preferences so their routine is minimally disrupted.

Information Sharing on your emergency child care plan 

Once you select emergency caregivers, familiarize them with your child and share all relevant information they will need during care.

Introductions and Bonding Time

Make introductions ahead of time; don’t wait for an emergency. Allow time for your child and the caregiver to meet, play together, and get comfortable. Having familiarity helps reduce separation anxiety and stress for the child and sitter during incidents. Schedule a few casual short visits for them to connect and acclimate before needing extended care.

Basic Information

Provide bios with key details – full legal name, birthdate, address, parent’s name, emergency contacts, known allergies, medical conditions, special needs, fears, or concerns. Share the doctor’s name and contact info, pharmacy preferences, and insurance cards. Note any regularly scheduled therapies or services your child attends. Having all this baseline knowledge helps the caregiver respond appropriately as needed.

Home Layout, Security Codes, Vehicles

Give a physical tour of your home so they know your layout, where to find supplies, first aid kits, linens, kitchen, etc. Provide home security codes and walk through your alarm system if applicable. Make sure they have car seat instructions if transporting your child. Share details of any vehicles they may need to use, like location of parking, keys, and how to operate – especially important if they are driving an unfamiliar family member’s car in an emergency.

Health Information

Create a mini medical file to store with sitters, including vaccination history, past and chronic illnesses, hospitalizations, physician recommendations, allergies, and medication lists. List medications currently being taken, dosages, potential side effects, administration instructions, and prescribing doctor info. Outline any medical devices or equipment and how to use them properly. Also note dental care providers, orthodontists, eye doctors, or other specialists.

Daily Routine and Care Instructions

Outline your child’s typical daily schedule so the caregiver can replicate familiar activities and mealtimes. Include wake/bedtimes, napping, playtime, learning time, favorite foods, and meal prep ideas. Share care instructions – supportive discipline style, security item info like ‘lovey’ or pacifier, hygiene habits, and bedtime routines. Pass along activities your child enjoys, like books, toys, games, movies, or music they find soothing.

Emergency Protocols

While caretakers can follow standard first aid guidelines and outline exceptions. List any emergency medication instructions for severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks, blood sugar lows in diabetics, or non-standard responses. Note if your child becomes distressed with medical interventions – needles, oxygen masks, etc. Share preferred hospitals or clinics, any health issues requiring specialty care, and frequency of symptoms that warrant assessment.

Legal Documentation

Depending on the caregiver, you may want to provide legal documentation like power of attorney, guardianship forms, or other permission slips authorizing medical care and decision-making. Check with an attorney to understand consent and liability concerns if someone outside your immediate family will care for your child for an extended period.

Preparing Kids and Helping them Adjust

A new caregiver during a stressful incident may be confusing or frightening for kids. Take time to mentally and emotionally prepare them for the change in routine and separation from parents.

Talk it Through

Have simple, honest conversations explaining that sometimes parents get sick, hurt, or need to go help other family members away. The substitute caregiver is there to keep them safe, follow their routines, and make sure they are cared for until mom and dad can come back home. Use kid-friendly language appropriate to their age and level of understanding.

Answer Questions

Acknowledge their worries and questions openly. Let them express concerns to get reassurance – will Mommy and Daddy come back? Why can’t I stay home alone? Allow them to process the plan and changes verbally. Offer empathy and remind them it’s temporary; you’ll be back together as soon as possible.

Read Related Books

Use children’s books dealing with separation, new caregivers, illness, and injury to normalize the situation. Reading together facilitates discussions about their emotions. Choose titles like ‘When Mommy Goes to the Hospital,’ ‘The Falling Star,’ or ‘Always Close to Mommy.’ Seek out books featuring characters that look like your child, too.

Encourage Connection

Suggest fun introductory activities the new caregiver can do with your child, like playing games, baking cookies, reading stories, or watching movies. Have them exchange favorite toys/stuffed animals to ‘look after’ until reunited. Making artwork or cards to exchange also helps them feel connected. Provide recent family pictures and recorded video messages to comfort them while apart.

Pack Familiar Items

Put together a small care package of comforting familiar objects – favorite pajamas, any security blankets/toys, treasured books, even mom or dad’s T-shirts with your scent. Having their own personal items helps ease the unfamiliarity of a new place or temporary living arrangement if needed.

Stick to Routines

Ask caregivers to follow your child’s regular routines as closely as possible, given the circumstances. Kids find consistency comforting. Mealtimes, bedtime rituals, daily schedules, and activities should stay similar to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Make a Plan for Reuniting

Talk through ideas for celebration when back home –favorite dinner together, movie night, a trip to the zoo or park, etc. Give them something positive to anticipate and reduce worry about parents not returning. Reestablish contact and check in periodically if you are able.

Watch for Red Flags

Be alert and responsive if your child shows signs of severe distress – tantrums, aggression, separation anxiety, or regression like bedwetting or baby talk. Have caregivers reach out if behavioral or emotional concerns arise. Seek support from your pediatrician, school counselors, therapists, or other resources if needed.

Concluding an Emergency Child Care Period

As hard as the beginning can be, returning to normal routines after emergency child care also requires thoughtfulness. Make the transition smooth with care and communication.

Express Gratitude

Your relief at being reunited may overshadow how helpful the caregiver was. Take time to sincerely thank them for fulfilling such an important role and being there when you needed them most. Follow up with gestures of appreciation like gift cards, paying for child care hours, baking their favorite treats, or writing thank you notes.

Fill in the Gaps

Discuss how the time went – your child’s mood and behavior, any concerns that arose, health or school issues, etc. Ask the caretaker’s perspective on your child’s adjustment and emotional state. Fill in details the child is too young to convey, like eating habits, sleep pattern, bowel movements and overall health.

Ease the Adjustment Home

Expect some regression, clinginess, and acting out as your child processes trauma and yet another caregiver transition. Reestablish structure but have patience as they stabilize. Provide opportunities to discuss experiences and feelings. Offer reassurance you are home for good and that life is returning to normal. Seek counsel if needed to work through separations or abandonment anxiety.

Debrief for Future

What worked well that should be repeated? What could be improved? Update your emergency child care plan based on the caregiver’s feedback. Restock supplies that ran low. Add their contact info and other trusted network members willing to help again. Look for lessons that allow you to fine tune the emergency response process.

Though difficult emotionally, creating an emergency child care plan helps reduce worries and ensures your kids stay safe and cared for when you cannot be there. Being prepared and choosing caregivers thoughtfully allows you to handle life’s unexpected emergencies or health situations with greater confidence and peace of mind. What matters most is that your children feel secure, even in your absence. With a trusted caretaker following established routines, they cope better and adjust faster when reunited with you. Your diligent preparation ensures continuity of care when they need you most.


Having a comprehensive emergency child care plan provides comfort and stability for both parents and children during stressful situations. Careful selection of trusted caregivers, clear information sharing, and efforts to ease difficult transitions help minimize disruption and anxiety when regular parenting routines are interrupted. While emergencies are never convenient, your thoughtful planning helps provide consistent, loving care until your child is safely in your arms once again.