When you’re at a crowded shopping mall or a large play area, it’s very easy to lose sight of your active toddler.
Perhaps your attention is drawn for a moment to something that happens behind you. Or maybe you stop to chat with a friend and take your eyes off your little one for an instant. When you look back, she’s gone. This can happen to anyone.
What you do in the next few seconds is very important. Do not wait passively in the hope that your toddler will return on her own. She’ll now be concentrating on something else, and thoughts of making her way back to Mum or Dad are far from her mind.
Chances are, she’s still nearby. So, shout out her name, calmly and clearly, again and again every few seconds.
At the same time, look around the immediate area for any sign of her without leaving the spot where you lost her. If more than a minute passes without any sign of her appearing, start to search, say, within 50m of the spot. Conduct this systematically, going in an ever-increasing circle.
Almost certainly, you will find your toddler in those early moments and will be flooded with relief. She was probably just distracted by toys at a shop window.
But if your initial brief search is futile, get additional help immediately to continue looking.
Can you prevent it?
Of course, it’s much better to prevent such instances from happening than to deal with them when they arise.
That’s why it makes sense to tell your toddler that she “must stay with Mummy or Daddy all the time”.
If she’s not in the stroller, remind her to always take your hand, and tell her that she should be able to see you at all times.
Be prepared to say this to her over and over again, at the start of each outing. You’ll be amazed how quickly a bored two-year-old can forget such a simple instruction, especially when something exciting catches her attention at the mall.
You need to remain alert, too, when you’re out together. Naturally, you do your best to supervise your two-year-old all the time when outdoors, but that isn’t always possible.
Both you and your little one can be distracted, and your attention shifts from each other for a few seconds. And that’s all it takes for you to become separated. So teach her something practical to do if she does get lost.
Tell her to cry loudly and to shout out. This may not be easy for your toddler because she knows you usually reprimand her for screaming in public.
Make it very clear that in this situation – when she’s lost – you won’t be annoyed with her for shouting. Explain that this will help you find her.
Simple strategies like this, which you should practise and reinforce each time you go out, can be very effective.