Play “Marco Polo” in public to keep track of out-of-sight kids

Remember "Marco Polo," that classic call-and-respond swimming pool game? Mari and her husband use it as a way to keep tabs on their kids in public places:

Okay, I know it sounds crazy. We always call out 'Marco' when we're in the store and encourage our son to respond. At 21 months he doesn't really get it, but when he runs off into the clothes and hides in the racks he will holler 'Marco' back when my husband or I do. We play this game ALL the time. Even when they're just an aisle away my husband will ask "Where's Mom?" and sure enough I'll hear our son belt out 'Marco!'. Most people think it's a riot when they hear us, but it sure has saved my sanity a couple of times!

Related: Put a bell on toddlers' belts to more easily locate them


  1. Rob Monroe says

    My wife and I used to be camp staff and we have continued to play this game by ourselves in stores. It really does usually get a laugh from other adults. I’m confident that we will teach this important tool to our daughter later on.

  2. Shetha says

    Wow! I Totally do this, to keep track of my 4 yr old while I strap the baby in. The baby (ok 16 month old) now likes to chime in, so when the time comes he’ll be trained :-) I can see it now, so many parents will use this that when they say Marco half the kids in the store will go POLO! (or the kid named marco will go “huh???”)

  3. Jean says

    I pulled into a drive through to order a bagel for my daughter – you know, the kind of drive-through with a big menu sign and a little microphone on a stick, where you place your order before you drive around the corner to the pickup window. From the little speaker, an un-seen person greeted me with, “Marco?”

    Of course I said “Polo!”

    Made my day! :-)

  4. Joyous says

    My husband and I use this all the time to find each other in stores or crowds. One day, though, I shouted Marco, and a strange guy replied, “What?” Guess what his name was?

  5. flynn says

    My husband can make a rather loud, non-annoying pop with his tongue and that has always been his locator (we call it “ping,” for all the geeks out there). I never could do it, but our son learned it as one of his first sounds. Not to be outdone, I got to work and now I can do it, too. So roll out some other unique sound if you’re not a Marco Polo fan, or if you live in an Italian neighborhood. *grin*

  6. LisaS says

    We do the whistle variation of this, the one I learned from my grandmother: a long (5 sec +/-)high pitch followed by a short (2-3 sec +/-) lower one. The kids respond in kind, and because its a continuous tone, we can hone in on it easily. My husband, however, is harder to train. thank goodness for cell phones.

    And it’s fun to hide in the nearby clothes racks while your mom is shopping … out of sight, unless you knock one over …

  7. andrea from the fishbowl says

    ooh, not me. Although my kids are older now and I was deathly afraid of losing them when they were wee. I never wanted to do anything that encouraged them to hide anywhere.

    What works for me is pretending they’re lost! I look around and call their names. For some reason they trot directly behind me. From time to time I check behind a lamp post or a mailbox and just keep “looking”. Works all the time. :)

  8. Stu Mark says

    We have a family whistle, a unique whistle pattern I created, which let’s family members know that I can’t see them in a crowded store. Works every time, both for my kids and my wife, as the sound is unique. Yes, I do get looks from strangers who probably think I’m treating my wife like a dog, but whatever, they don’t know about us (and they’ve never heard of love).

  9. Desiree says

    My Dad has this special tune he whistles when calling out for us in crowded places like shopping malls, he still does this today even though his kids are all grown up. And now my 10 month old son tries desperately to imitate him but makes clucking sounds instead, which he uses to call us (he couldn’t yet call out ‘mama’ or ‘dada’)