How to Teach Toddlers the Dangers of Running Towards or in the Street

As you teach your toddler the dangers of running towards or into traffic, never give them the opportunity to do so. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children wait until the age of 10 -- when they have the skills to evaluate traffic -- to cross the street alone, parents should start teaching children the dangers of traffic as early as possible.

Give your child a choice of holding your hand or riding in a stroller whenever you’re near a street. Make the two options non-negotiable. This gives your child a little freedom in making a choice, but she will learn that she cannot walk alone near the street.

Explain that you must always watch for cars because cars can’t always see people walking or running. Be a good example when you cross the street. Always use crosswalks and vocally count the number of ways you need to look before crossing. Ask your toddler to participate in looking with you and see if she can spot any cars coming your way.

Stop before crossing driveways 1. Point at the back lights of cars and explain that when lights are on, that means danger. Point at the road and explain that cars can turn fast into their driveway, as well. Follow the same procedure even at home, to avoid a possible backover incident 1. According to, every year, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured because a driver backs up, most often in a driveway, without seeing the child.

Yell “Danger!” in the event your toddler starts running toward a street, and instigate a time-out immediately. Take your child indoors and say, “Since you ran toward danger, you need to play inside now for a while.” Chances are your child hears "no" fairly often, and "danger" more aptly describes the situation. Make sure your child knows that when you yell danger it means you see something that could hurt her really bad and she should freeze or run back to you.

Park the car, then ask your toddler to point to the door that’s closest to the curb or sidewalk 1. Explain that the safest route is away from cars driving and then help your child out of the car, using the safest door.

Hold her hand when walking through parking lots and ask your toddler to see if she can spy the closest sidewalk. Tell her to look for red and white lights just as you did with driveways. When a red or white light does come on, take a few steps back together and wait for the car to back up and drive away. Sometimes cars will try to wait for you to cross if they see you, but wave them on during times of teaching.