Keeping a Toddler Safe in Public

On Wednesday a little girl was allegedly kidnapped from Primark in Newcastle upon Tyne, by two teenagers aged 13 and 14. Since then I’ve changed in my approach in outings with the boys. This event, perhaps because it’s happened so close to home, perhaps because it’s pointed out a flaw in my parenting, whatever it is it’s really shaken me.

I spent more than the normal length of time of our journey time this morning prepping James what he needs to do while we are out – stay where you can see me, no running off, along with the usual indoor voices, etc.


When we got out of the car I reminded him, stay close to me, please. Meanwhile my heart is in my mouth, my throat on the verge of a sob. She was only two and a half, some papers report. Can you imagine? Your baby going off with teenagers? Young teenagers at that – these are not “grown ups” at 13 and 14.

This afternoon we went to Tesco at Kingston Park. The rails of clothes provided James a hiding place where he giggled too loudly to really be hidden. And Noah, in the sling on my back, kept his eye on his brother while I browsed through the jeans. Suddenly Noah stopped “there he is!”-ing, and I shouted “James?” From a few aisles away I could hear him calling “Mummy?”

The horror.

Presumably in that minute someone could’ve had him away.

So we spent the time in the car on our journey home talking about how fun it is to play hide and seek, but how much better it is to play at home and not in a shop.

 We also talked about what to do if he can’t find me while we are out: find another mummy with children with her, and tell her you can’t find your mummy.

Rob’s mum has suggested he needs to wear reins, but at nearly four years old, I think we’ve managed up till now without them, and yet… But it is an option, particularly for younger toddlers.

We’ve also gone over and over, more so in the past couple of days but often recently that he knows what his address is. James responded today to the question “what’s your address?” with “it’s the batman one”. Umm…huh?! He knows his full name and his home town, and definitely the number of house we live at. We need to work on the street name!

You can get washable tattoos, which might work at Walt Disney World or another “big” day out, but I don’t think they’re a day to day option, really.

I think we’re going to stick with discipline as our main option here – stay where you can see me – though I’d love to hear if you’ve a plan that works while out with little ones. A lot of my time – much more than normal – has been spent thinking about this and I really don’t want a casualty to be the boys’ innocence or freedom.

More than likely nothing is ever going to happen but I have to say this has affected me more than, say, terrorist attacks. A kidnapping of a toddler so close to home is frightening. Very best wishes to the mum and the family; they must’ve gone to absolute hell and back in the time it took to locate their daughter. And kudos to the police, public transport and retailers who all operated to seek out the toddler in a really short time.

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6 Comments

  1. April 17, 2016 / 6:40 am

    I heard about this when it happens as my other half heard about it at work. Having daughters who are both the same age as the girl who went missing & the teen who took her I find the whole thing horrifying. I don’t understand how teens that age were aloud to roam free in town after school, mine certainly is not and I dread to think what that little girls mum was going through. This is my worst nightmare as a parent, someone taking or harming my children. My little two are 1 & 2 so I am extra careful when I am out too now as my 2 year old walks everywhere. Xx

    • April 17, 2016 / 8:00 am

      Seeing that they had no one with them in court helps me understand why they were in town after school unaccompanied, Lindsay. It’s so awful, and has scared me! Hopefully a one-off incident but horrible all the same.

  2. April 18, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    Augh! It’s so stressful to think about the fact that my kiddo could be abducted at some point. Thanks for this reminder that we need to keep safety precautions in place!

    • April 19, 2016 / 7:32 pm

      So very stressful Susannah. We do need to be careful and apply some rules!

  3. deepeabee
    April 19, 2016 / 4:11 pm

    My children held on to the pushchair or my hand when we were out walking. The only time they could let go was in the park. Even in the supermarket they had to hold on to the trolley (unless they were helping to put the items in the trolley).

    • April 19, 2016 / 7:34 pm

      They sound like fabulous rules, and I’m going to enforce these a little more. We don’t always take a trolley or the pushchair while we are out so we need to adapt this idea, but it’s certainly a great one.

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