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Tips for Handling Toddlers in a Crowd

With new-found independence due to their discovery of running, the need-for-speed phase can be a parent’s worst nightmare, especially in a crowded space. Particularly around the holidays, community events, bustling shopping centers, and zoos harbor larger than normal crowds.  So how can you manage your little ones and still have fun?

Here are some tips to keep your toddler safe in crowded areas:

  • Hold on tight. In the running stage, simply keeping an eye on them isn’t going to cut it while in the midst of a thick crowd. Give them options: “it’s either you sit in the stroller or you hold onto my hand.” They may put up a fight initially, but if you continue to only give them two options without negotiation, soon enough it will become commonplace. There is also the controversial alternative: the child harness, aka the leash. The verdict on this tactic is skewed across the board. Some find it a useful aid and a necessary safety measure for their little runner; others find it to be a cruel mechanism for the parent unwilling to teach their child boundaries. Regardless, as a parent, it is your job to decide what’s best for you and your toddler to keep them safe.
  • Show your tot where he/she can move about. Stick to the outskirts of the crowd and allow your child to run around in a specific area. Toddlers need to move, so to help exhaust their pent up energy, take breaks from the crowd to allow them to let loose for a little bit before it’s back to holding hands.
  • Identification. To offset the dangers of losing sight of your child, it is crucial to provide some form of identification and a way in which you can be contacted somewhere on your toddler’s person. There are many avenues for this method, but here are a few options:
    • Buy a nice ID bracelet. Inscribe your number on it (as well as any other medical information if need be) so that someone can contact you if your child is lost. It may not be wise to put your child’s name on the bracelet, as this could cater to a stranger calling the child by their name, which naturally makes a child feel more comfortable and secure if they think the person knows them.
    • If possible, look into buying a box of hospital ID bracelets to slip your name and cell phone number into the bracelet. As many of us may know, those things are impossible to get off without scissors, so you can rest assured that your information will not fall off, even if your toddler is some sort of squirmy magician.
    • Place a current family photo in their pocket with your information on the back. Not only can someone find your contact information, they also know who to look for in the crowd.
  • Dress accordingly. Those color-coordinated families at the theme park may not seem so laughable now. There is reasoning behind it. Though a tie-dye uniform for the entire family may be a bit much, make sure you do put thought into the clothing you and your family wear to crowded events. Don your little ones in bright colors or memorable outfits so that you can keep an eye on them through a crowd. Prior to leaving the house, have your toddler study your clothing so that they know what to look for should they get lost. Something bright works best so that you can be easily spotted.
  • Role play. As soon as your toddler is old enough to understand, it is important to begin role playing scenarios so that they can always be prepared. For example, if the family ventured out to a theme park, and the child found he was lost, where should he go? Who should he look for? Who should he approach? *When you do arrive at a large event, point out the people who work there and what they are wearing. If your tot does find himself apart from you, hopefully this will assist him in finding his way back.
  •  Choose to avoid the crowd. Sometimes there are events that are worth the hassle, but some events are too crowded, too late, or just too difficult to bring along your little one. Consider whether or not the event will be worthwhile to your toddler, and you.
  • Know when to call it a day. Toddlers can become easily overwhelmed by huge crowds. If you feel a meltdown coming on, it may be time to call it quits. Come back another time when the crowds are lighter.

What other suggestions do you have for handling your toddler in a crowded area?

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