Runaway toddler parenting techniques?

Have any of you parented a runaway toddler? On of my grandsons is just an incredible escape artist. He can climb anything, get out of any place, and wants to get out of his fenced yard or my fenced yard, he wants to go to the neighbors or go drive Momma’s car (he will find her keys!) etc.

Anyone have any good techniques for runaway buddies?

H installed a hook and eye on some of our doors (out of reach for S), after I looked out a window and saw then 2 year old S walking down the street alone!

Oh, that’s tough! One evening DH and I invited our ex-boss and his wife over for dinner. We hadn’t seen them for several years and were so excited. As we were preparing dinner, the wife happened to look outside and notice two-year-old D running down the driveway toward the street! Thank goodness it was a road that got almost zero traffic. Yikes. So embarrassing and scary!

We had to put slide bolts near the top of several doors. They couldn’t be too high since I’m short. Fortunately, our kids only tried climbing on one of their chairs to reach and didn’t drag a big chair over by the door.

Our security systems in a couple of houses had chimes that sounded when doors or windows were opened, even when the system wasn’t armed. That helped but I still had to be quick.

One of my brothers was an escape artist. My mother said she was mortified to answer the door of their base housing to find a naked toddler being returned by an airman. Dad was a pilot and the little guy loved to watch the planes. In those days, you could buy a net cage to attach to the top of a crib which they did after that incident.

All I can suggest are some keypad locks for closets and exterior doors, and make sure the little guy doesn’t watch anyone enter the code.

We had to hide our keys. Before the age of 2, older S would push the kitchen chair to the wall where we hung our keys and would unlock the dead bolted door.

I had to keep a hand on him at all times. He would NOT ride in a stroller even from infancy. Those shopping cart belts? Useless. He was too skinny. I had to have a hand of his leg the entire trip. When our super walmart opened right after his first bday, I took my hand off for just a sec to check a price tag. He jumped up, out of the cart, dove and landed on his head on the concrete floor. Ugh. Chipped a tooth, but was otherwise OK thank goodness.

As a toddler/pre-schooler, we did buy those harness leashes for him. I would still always hold his hand, but it was for those times when he’d wriggle free and bolt. He also hated swings since birth, but if you tried, he’d time the swing to grab the leg, stop the motion, and wiggle out in no time flat. Anything that kept him still and/or in one place was torture for him.

(Older S was cruising, simply slapping a hand down the wall at 6 months & walking for real at 8 months. By 10 months he would just run all… the… time… Teenagerism cured him of that. :wink: )

I had one of those toddlers. For shopping excursions I did use the leash, but had to frequently tolerate strangers berating me for treating my child like a dog. Other people would ask why I didn’t just leave the baby at home with his grandmother or a sitter. The answer to that was too long to give a nosy neighbor.

When our D’s were young H installed a deadbolt with a key lock on the front door. The key then hung up high next to the door where little hands could not get it. We also have hooks in one cupboard up high for car keys that they could not reach.

It’s really difficult, and I think you have to absolutely keep eyes on them until they get old enough to understand danger.

Suggestions: multiple barriers to danger

Make toddler bedroom a safe containment area:

Small zip up tent with mesh door, able to be locked from outside, to contain toddler when an adult can’t keep eyes directly on them.

Nothing in bedroom they can climb on. Consider a mattress on floor.

Lock on bedroom closets and door. They need to be locked in at night: bedroom AND all exterior doors. Set exterior alarms.

Locks on bedroom windows. Tape on window glass to minimize damage to toddler if they try to break out. Window bars if possible. No blinds, curtains, CORDS, etc. No framed art, mirrors, etc.

Absolutely hide all keys. Keep car in locked garage. Create as many barriers as possible between them and cars. Do not leave them outside alone, even in fenced yard.

My mother said she began to understand why some children might be locked in dog runs for their own safety. I don’t think that is a terrible idea. Some are large enough for children to walk around comfortably, but I shudder to think how social services would react. If I had it to do over again, I might crate mine for safety when I couldn’t keep my eyes on them… No joke. Lots of trips to emergency room, but they finally out grew this stage.

Good luck.

PS. Be sure they understand they are physically incapable of flight, even if wearing the correct super hero cape… Perhaps allow them an attempt from a low chair so they believe you.

Thorazine? Electric fence? Leash? Duct tape? Costco alcoholic freezer pops. So many options. :wink:

Wow all I can think about is how does this tendency translate to adulthood? Are these run away types genius entrepreneurs when they grow up?

No more advice, but lots of hugs.

They do need to start locking up the house at night, gotta find a solution for the glass slider. Funny, so many rooms are locked, basement and pantry have little locks by the ceiling, spare bathroom, master bedroom, etc.

They live in the country and had had horses, we keep discussing that electric fencing just sitting in the barn ? or a felon ankle bracelet with alarm.

This discussion has already brought some clarity, she has two issues: the house and the yard. They have a nice 42” fence and he is up and over that no problem, all the time. There is some latitude of safety as they are in the country, but if he makes it to the main road, 1/4 mile away, that would be bad. It’s 45mph with a blind hill.

He needs to be mildly injured to begin to absorb consequences and avoid death and TBI, and I am not kidding.

You just can’t take your eyes off them for a while until they get old enough for some sense. Even if other things don’t get done and you’re tired. It’s hard. The alternative is to keep them engaged with what you are doing or where you are. I sacrificed pots and hearing to drums. Lids and containers to all sorts of games. Cans and boxes to stacking. “Help” cooking. Blanket caves in whatever room I wanted to work in. Sometime after 31/2 or 4 if I remember correctly they could do more on their own.

Screen door locks (with the slider feature!) were all over our house with our escape artist*. By 9 months, she was walking & running, with infinite energy, completely uncontainable, but with no more sense than a gnat.

Agree that some of it is just waiting it out- most kids are 3+ before the concept of action/consequences really clicks (nevermind sticks…).

Mostly, though, it was involving her in everything I was doing- which can be fun, when it isn’t exhausting, especially if you are more patient than I am…

LOTS of engaging outside time and focus can help: we built many, many obstacle courses in the backyard. I know people who have access to climbing walls (and if you work at REI, their in-house daycare has them!). Things that let her test her ability to climb, run, jump, etc.

We also had a bunch of ‘quiet time’ activities (puzzles, Noah’s Ark animals, felt friends & lego, age appropriate books, etc), that were only available to her during specified ‘quiet times’ would buy a little time. Right after lunch when there was a mandatory ‘quiet time on your bed’, with any 2 of the ‘quiet time’ activities…many days an actual nap would result! (but it was never, ever called nap time…).

*she still tells the story of the day she was able to both reach and open the one on the front door for the first time as a proud moment in her life. I think she was 5. At least by then she had a little more sense than a gnat…

I agree with those above that said you just have to watch them constantly until they get to a certain age. I had both my girls doing things with me from the time they were tiny to keep an eye on them even if the task took longer. My house was not the cleanest and we didn’t have a lot of gourmet meals when the kids were little, but that was just how it went.

We still tell Flying Wallenda jokes. You just have to supervise closely until they pass this phase.

And this is the age they go to the bathroom with you.

Granddaughter is a runner. And with the super steep hills where they live, its a recipe for disaster.

Can he get out of the fenced yard? You might do things like not have any furniture that can be used to climb outside, (people with children and properly fenced and gated pools will know this is a strategy) and you can install sliding locks as per a pool fence on the gate, for really smart kids, people used to put two sliding vertical locks on far enough apart that a kid could not have the wingspan. Have the parents really childproofed? I know plenty of parents that just won’t do it.

S2 as a toddler with autism and almost no language was also an escape artist. He also had no fear of danger. We had key bolts on the outside doors and all the windows locked. We double gated his bedroom door opening so he could not get out, but we could hear him. Thankfully he was not a climber.

I used the leash with him from ages 1 to about 4. People who knew us understood, and those who didn’t I would never see again so I didn’t care. It was truly a lifesaver wherever we went and kept him safe.