On-the-Go Safety

Keeping your toddler safe doesn't stop at your front door. Here's how to make sure your child is secure in the car, in the grocery cart, and on walks.

toddler car seat
Photo: Courtesy of NHTSA


Keeping your 2-year-old safe does not stop at the front door. The greatest threat to her well-being presents itself every time she gets into the family car. Motor vehicle crashes are the number-one killer of children in the United States each year. Whether you're driving across town to pick up a loaf of bread or trekking across five states to visit the kids' grandma and grandpa, some simple rules of the road always apply.

First, keep your child buckled up in a car seat that has been installed correctly. Convertible car seats with a bar or T-shield, used facing forward at this age, are safe for toddlers up to 40 pounds. From there, a booster seat fills the gap until your child reaches 60 pounds. Although your toddler may prefer to ride up front with Mom or Dad, the safest place for her is still the middle of the backseat.

Never leave your toddler un-attended in a car -- even a locked one. In hot weather, this practice could put your child at risk for heat exhaustion, and there's always the chance that she could escape from her car seat and hurt herself.

If your child continually tries to get out of her seat while you're driving, stop the car and explain that you can't go anywhere until she stays firmly planted. On longer trips, keep snacks, books, and toys handy to occupy your little one. Plan to stop and stretch frequently.

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Your toddler may also resist following safety measures on a walk with you. Many 2-year-olds and their parents have heated battles over holding hands. If your child resists, stand your ground. Safety rules are nonnegotiable. Your child won't be able to safely cross streets and parking lots unattended for several more years.

One safety device you might be tempted to try is the child harness or leash. While it may help keep your child out of harm's way, many experts feel that the leash conveys an inappropriate message by using physical force instead of words to keep your child near you.

Another hazard -- and one often overlooked -- is the seemingly mundane trip to the grocery store. Thousands of children under age 4 require emergency treatment each year after falling out of grocery carts, with injuries including fractures and concussions. If there is a safety belt available, strap your child in the cart. And maintain constant supervision; during the minute or two you spend analyzing food labels, your toddler could be wriggling into position for a free-fall.

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