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Keeping Your Wandering Toddler Safe

Keeping Your Wandering Toddler Safe

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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Nadine Wimmer Reporting A five-year old ended up wandering on the freeway ramp last weekend. She was left unsupervised while her dad played church basketball. Cases like these happen all too often, sometimes with tragic consequences. It's not easy keeping up with a toddler. What we found can help you stay safe.

Nothing pleases Alec Wagoner more than escaping from his mom.

Cheryl Wagoner, Mom: “He thinks it’s a game.”

We followed them to the store, discretely placed our cameras, and counted the seconds. By the time mom reached down for a basket Alec had wandered halfway across the store, stopping only to grab at the chip display.

Minutes later she turns just long enough to size up an outfit for big brother and he’s gone again. She suspects one of his usual hiding places.

Cheryl Wagoner: "Come on out, come on out. Come on Alec, then you're not going to get your special treat."

It's the same story at two-year old Wyatt Adams' house.

Dorothy Adams, Mom: “I absolutely have to watch him every second, because if I take my eyes off him for a moment, doing stuff around the back yard, he takes off."

With our camera hidden through the window we watched him wave and wander. In less than 30 seconds, he's climbed into the balcony of the neighbor's jungle gym.

These toddlers maybe newly mobile, but they're fast! We watched one boy run almost the length of a soccer field in 25 seconds. His mom barely caught him before he got to the street.

We chuckle, most parents have had a similar experience. Yet in precious seconds, unsupervised children can get into life threatening trouble.

Kathy Chambers, Injury Prevention, S.L. Valley Health: “Unintentional injury is the number one cause of death for young toddlers.”

Drowning, motor vehicle and pedestrian crashes, choking, cuts and burns -- these are the top reasons that brought nearly 30,000 1-4 year olds to Utah emergency rooms last year. Almost all of those injuries could likely have been prevented with closer supervision.

Kathy Chambers: “We like to call it touch supervision, if you’re not touching them, they can get away from you.”

Even touching or holding hands doesn't always work, as our camera watched while mom let go of Wyatt's hand, just long enough to unlock her car door. Had it been a busy parking lot, it could have been trouble.

Other tips to stay safe include, keep kids belted in a stroller; some parents swear by child harnesses. Those help in public, but most accidents happen at home. With that in mind, parents offer another suggestion.

Bart Adams, Father: “Don’t get too crazy trying to multitask too much. Everybody tries to do it.”

Cheryl Wagoner: “We are vigilant parents, but it takes just a second.”

So remember some basic tips to keep your wandering toddler safe:
--Stay close to your children; they are fast and probably like to hide.
--Show your children where they can run. They'll accpet limits more quickly if they know there are places they can run.
--Engage and entertain -- take a toy or let them help you by pushing the stroller.
--Explain your behavioral expectations.
--Encourage your children when they do well.
--Teach children safety stories and songs.
--Don't waste time on warnings for children too young to understand consequences.

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