Have you heard of a ‘go bag’? I first heard the term when we moved to a bushfire-prone area and my husband joined the street’s fire team. The go bag is essentially a bag that is packed and ready to go in case of emergency. In it you’d store things like important documents, water, torch, hygiene supplies, a first-aid kit and a spare credit card.
“Oh,” I said to my husband. “So it’s like a nappy bag for emergencies?” It made me think about the role of the nappy bag in a mother’s life. When you have a newborn, a well-stocked, well-organised nappy bag is your pass out the front door without having to fuss around looking for all the bits and pieces that a newborn seems to need. Your nappy bag is your instant ticket to freedom. Which made me wonder why I ever thought I could let it go?
Once the kids were out of nappies and no longer requiring mass-surface-sterilisation to get about in the world, our nappy bag was slowly replaced with a standard handbag and a set of car keys. Only it wasn’t. What the nappy bag was really replaced with was a mad dash hunting for bottles of water, snacks, a change of clothes, light jacket, busy box activities and a random ‘just in case’ storybook, all before we could get out the door. So I decided to introduce a bag that would be part nappy bag, part go bag and all kinds of awesome.
The everyday go bag
Our everyday go bag contains the following:
- Water. Always needed, wherever we go. I used to get away with packing one large bottle for everyone to share, but then Max learned too much about germ-sharing and now we all have to have our own bottles. Which is a pain, but necessary.
- Snacks. You just never know how long you’re going to be somewhere. It’s so much easier to pack some portable, healthy snacks that you’re happy for the kids to eat rather than throw yourself at the mercy of whatever you can find on the road. I generally throw in a couple of apples as we leave, but I always keep some healthy non-perishable snacks I know the kids love ready-to-go without thinking.
- Notebooks. We just use cheapy non-ruled (“botany”) exercise books, one per child. A notebook is perfect for drawing, writing, recording and imagining. Sometimes I glue colouring-in or activity pages inside their notebooks. Sometimes I optimistically put their maths homework inside.
- Pencil case. Stocked with pens, pencils, rubbers and a pencil sharpener (don’t forget the critical pencil sharpener!)
- Tissue packet. It never fails to amaze me how useful a packet of tissues can be. For mopping up tears, blood, snot and spills.
- Baby wipes. They never lose their handy status, no matter how big your babies grow.
- Mini first-aid kit I’m not one to pack the Panadol and bandages, but BAND-AIDs, lip balm, bite cream, paw paw or anti-bacterial ointment, contact lenses, tweezers and nail clippers are all carted around. The nail clippers are for my own peace of mind – once I notice my children’s overgrown nails I can think of nothing else until I cut them down to size. I will tackle those nails anywhere.
- Long-sleeved tops A light extra-layer, just in case someone gets cold or wet or particularly grass-stained.
- Hats and sunscreen We never remember to apply the sunscreen before we go anywhere, which is why I always carry some on-board. Sadly, more often than not the hats stay in the bag no matter how much I nag, making the sunscreen even more critical.
- Rubbish bag Plastic shopping bags are the handiest things in the world to keep on hand – we use for rubbish, knick-knacks, wet clothing, random shopping and all manner of other things.
The everyday go bag lives on a hook in our hallway, always stocked, always waiting to be grabbed as we dash out the door. I used to keep it in the car, but found I wasn’t restocking it enough; the trick with a go bag as that you are vigilant in keeping it ready to go! Once we had the everyday bag up and running, I started to think of other regular activities that would benefit from their own go bag. Here are a few that we keep stocked and waiting:
- Busy / car bag This is a grab-and-go if we are going on a road trip or out to dinner. It lives mainly in the car, but every now and then I’ll check the paper levels and throw out any accumulated rubbish. It contains: pencil case – Felts, pencils, crayons, highlighters, eraser, pencil sharpener, scissors; note books, A4 paper in a plastic sleeve, felt games, activity books, paint chips, playing cards, loom bands, books, water bottles, snacks.
- Swimming / beach bag When we get back from swimming or the beach, the togs, sarongs and towels get washed, the caps and goggles dried, the drink bottle washed and replenished and then everything gets put back into the beach bag along with a fresh snack. It contains: swimmers, towels, goggles, hats, sunscreen, sarongs, plastic bags, water bottles, snack.
- Dance bag This drawstring bag is for my youngest daughter. It lives in the school bag drawer and gets thrown into her school bag on Thursdays as she has jazz straight after school. When she returns from jazz, the uniform and socks gets washed, the water bottle and snack replenished and everything is put straight back into the bag. Dance uniform, jazz shoes, socks, water bottle, snack.
- Gymnastics bag This backpack is for my eldest daughter and she takes it to gym on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Everything is restocked the same afternoon or evening that she returns from gym. It contains: essential neon-bright leotard, shorts, straps, drink bottle, water bottle, lip balm, gloves, chalk, jacket, snack.
- School bags I’m often surprised at how many families don’t have a specific ‘school bag checklist’ so the kids can keep track of what they need and when. A checklist means kids can be responsible for restocking their own bag on an as-needs basis. Generally the school bag contains: reader, hat, tissue packet, lip balm, rain poncho, note folder, jacket, water bottle. Library bags, readers, homework folders, lunch bags and news items come and go.
- Handbag The tried-and-true mum saver. As well as my purse, phone and sunnies, I keep the following in my handbag at all times: my ‘rescue kit’ – a cute pencil case stocked with band-aids, paracetamol, needle and thread, safety pin, paper clip, paw paw ointment and contact lenses; notebook, pen, card holder, tissue packet and water bottle.