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Keep Your Toddler Safe from Strangers

These toddler safety tips will give you peace of mind for keeping your toddler safe from strangers and other dangers.
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A reassuring guide for your peace of mind

It may be unnerving to even think about, but rest assured, the odds of a stranger snatching a child are very slim. Of the children reported missing every year, only a small percentage are kidnapped by strangers. In most cases, children are taken by family members, says Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com). Of course, you should inform your child about staying safe in terms they can understand. For a toddler, that means going beyond "Don’t talk to strangers."

"Toddlers think a stranger is some scary, mean-looking person," says McBride. They don’t understand that a stranger can be anybody they don’t really know, from the clerk at the grocery store to relatives of the kids at daycare. Another downside to telling a child to never talk to strangers: "If he’s in a situation where he becomes separated from you, he won’t know who to turn to for help," McBride says. Instead, she recommends the following safety strategies:

Stay close. Remind your toddler that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him, and so he must be able to see you at all times on the playground. Give parameters for where he can play, and be prepared to repeat this again and again and again.

Invite other moms to the park. There is safety in numbers. Says McBride: "If I’m a predator, I don’t want to go to a playground where there are a lot of eyes paying attention."

Look for a Mommy. Teach your child to do the following if he ever gets separated from you: He should stay where he is, look for a Mommy—anyone who is walking with a child or wheeling a stroller—and let her know he has lost his Mommy.

Define "stranger." Help your child grasp the meaning of the word "stranger": Sit with him near your home, point to people, and ask if they’re strangers or not. Offer gentle explanations if his answer is wrong. For example, is your regular neighborhood ice-cream truck driver a stranger? Your child might not think so. Explain that he should never go anywhere with someone he doesn’t know. And be sure to tell him the names of the people who are allowed to pick him up from daycare.

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