Dear Savvy Auntie,

I watch my nephew about 5 hours Monday through Friday and we have fun. We play and learn. The only problem is that when I want to take him outside, he always runs away. He's almost got hit. Thankfully I caught him, but I'm not sure what to do. He's only 2-and-a-half so I know he can't fully comprehend but I know I have to do something. I've tired taking toys away, time outs, and even not going out for a day or two to enforce it, but nothing works. Any advice will help.

Running Out of Ideas

Dear Running Out of Ideas,

Children ages two to five tell us with their actions what they need. Your nephew is telling you he needs to run.

Of course, you must keep him safe outdoors. Until he learns, I suggest you take him out in a stroller or a kiddie car with a long handle so you can push him for part of the time. Then give him time to be active and run, twirl, run, and enjoy his body.

Try teaching him indoors about "green light red light." When he runs, you say "green light" and then say "red light" and tell him to stop. Give him lots of praise when he stops. Keep the game going a few times before you do it outside. You can also play "freeze": play music and suddenly stop it and both of you " freeze." Again praise him lavishly.

Try to take him to small playgrounds and show him the boundaries where he can run freely within them.

In other words, think of him as a puppy who needs to run, leap, and roll around. 

He is probably too young for activities that require sitting still, so keep them to a minimum. Time outs are useful for teaching him right from wrong, but not outside. And only when he can understand he did something wrong - and then, only when you can implement them immediately.

I hope this is helpful,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Homepage photo: Anna Nahabed
Published: January 31, 2017

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