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Runaway Toddlers and how to stop them!

How can I stop my toddler running off?| When will my toddler stop running away?

I love the toddler years. The wonderful years of learning and talking and toddling around – but often the most exhausting time for parents. For me the toddler years with two under two was an emotional, exhausting rollercoaster of stress, laughter and tears, but I have to say now mine are a little older – I do miss the toddler days.


How can I stop my toddler running off?

One of the main questions I get asked through my free parent advice service is ‘How can I stop my toddler running off?’ A question I asked myself while running across the park in a speedy chase! My experiences as a professional and a mum of two born very close together has helped me to compile these top tips for not only getting through safely these toddler times, but enjoying them too! 


The thing is my lovelies – no amount of nagging or teaching will ensure that your toddler thinks like you. Little ones don’t understand the reasonings in staying close by and not running off. They see an opportunity to play, and zoom – they’re off exploring this amazing new space. It’s how it should be. Toddlers should be curious and interested in the world around them, and safety – well, that is not even close in their mind at all.  This is why it is vital that you take all responsibility for keeping your little one safe, especially by roads or dangerous places. Always think safety first.


Stay Safe. Stay Close.


In a park with gates and child-proof fences away from the roads: Let your toddler run free BUT keep him in sight at all times. Most of the time your little one will run ahead excitedly, then pause and turn to see if you are there. If it is safe – let him run, let him experience the independence. Most toddlers will turn around and run back to you – and in a park that is safe to do so – let your toddler try this, but stay close enough that you can catch him if he goes a little too far. Always keep him in sight. When he runs back to you – give lots of praise and cheers! Let your little one know how pleased you are that they came back to you!  

How can I stop my toddler running off?| When will my toddler stop running away?
Out and about in a busy place: It’s worth keeping your toddler in a buggy or on a toddler rein so you know they are safe. There are some lovely little toddler backpacks that have a rein attached – these are great and much lest restricting than full on reins.

Talk to your little one and explain how it’s not safe for them to run free and they may get lost or hurt. I know this sometimes can be a mission, especially if your toddler has a major meltdown – but safety is far more important than embarrassment. It’s a good idea if you are planning an outing somewhere where they’ll need to be in a buggy or held on to – that they’ve had a good run-around prior to going! This makes life a lot easier. 

In supermarkets try and give them a little freedom. You can keep them close by letting them hold the shopping list and helping to choose things off the list to put in the trolley. Having said this – supermarkets can be busy places and if your little dasher is prone to outbursts of zooming off at high speed, it may be worth popping them in the trolley-seat with some books, snacks or toys.


When will my toddler stop running away?

The toddler dash usually starts once your little one has been walking confidently for a while and has learnt to pick up pace. All little ones develop at a differnet rates, but it’s usually somewhere around the 18 month mark. The running away can last up to 2 1/2 years or even longer – so while it’s important to encourage independence, it’s also a good idea to introduce boundaries and the use of the word ‘No’ from a young age. 

Don’t be afraid to say no or to drop your voice and speak in a stern voice if your toddler does something that is dangerous. It is incredibly important that they understand that what they did was dangerous. You don’t need to shout – just change your voice so they recognise the change. With my two, since the toddler years, I’ve always dropped down to their level, lowered my voice and spoken slowly and firmly. I always repeat myself too – just so I know it is going in. For example ‘Mummy is VERY cross and sad. You could have really hurt yourself if you ran into the road! You must never run away from mummy near a road.’ Then a great big reassuring cuddle. 

I hope these tips help you cope with the runaway years and reasure you that your little runaway is just going through a normal stage of development. 

How can I stop my toddler running off?| When will my toddler stop running away?