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Born To Run: Helping Toddlers with Wandering

This week’s Triple P post gives suggestions for wandering toddlers.

Infants and toddlers are natural born movers and shakers. After they learn to confidently walk, it doesn’t take long before they are darting off in every direction to explore their environment.

Your child, who once happily sat in a baby carrier or rode along in a stroller, now wants to get in on the action, walking (or more likely running) through the store or at the park. Keeping your toddler in arm’s reach becomes more challenging as they seem to grow faster by the day.

If you’d like to teach your toddler to stay close to you while you are out in public, there are some strategies you can try to keep them from wandering away.


The world is still very new and exciting (and distracting!) to a toddler. During this stage, toddlers are also exercising their independent streak, walking where they want to go, not where you want them to go. Other times, it’s simply the thrill of the chase! They think: “Chase me! Chase me! What a fun game!

It can be tempting to wait out this period in your child’s development and limit outings until your toddler learns greater self-control, but it’s better to step out from time to time. Without opportunities to practice staying close, wandering is likely to continue even through the later toddler years.

Teaching Toddlers to Stay Close

Decide on some short outings that you feel comfortable taking with your toddler. A short walk around your neighborhood or through a park is a good start.

  • Start with short, 5-minute trips.
  • Avoid taking the walk when you or your child are tired or hungry.
  • Explain where you are going and what you want your child to do: “We are walking to the mailbox, you need stay close with me as we walk there.”
  • Praise your toddler for staying close.
  • Keep the walk interesting by pointing out things you see, such as birds or flowers. Your conversation has the added benefit of keeping their attention on you.

For more tips on wandering, visit lanekids.org

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis, and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). 

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For more information about the Triple P Online – Positive Parenting Program click here.

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