Two boys were left on a street in Birmingham by carjackers who pulled their 23-year-old mother from her vehicle and drove off.
West Midlands Police said two men pulled the children's mother from the car in the Erdington area of the city at around 17:45 GMT on Wednesday.
They drove off in the white Vauxhall Astra and abandoned the pair, aged 18-months and five, half a mile away.
West Midlands Police said the children were unhurt but alone and in shock.
They were found and taken home by a local man, the force said.
Det Ch Insp Matt Tite said: "A member of the public noticed the children being left at the side of the road and was able to ensure speedy contact with the police in order that they could be reunited as swiftly as possible with their family.
"Two offenders described as black males in their late teens, early 20s, [had] approached the young lady who was getting out of her vehicle, dragged her from the vehicle and made off."
Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen the incident in Pintail Drive, or who may have information, to contact them.
The offenders approached the woman, who was getting out of the vehicle, having returned home after going to the local shops.
The children were driven for around half a mile before being abandoned at the roadside in Mere Road.
Officers are looking at CCTV footage from the area to try to work out where the vehicle may have been taken, the force said.
Det Sgt Julie Woods said: "The car is a white Vauxhall Astra registration number KV60 BNX and had blacked out windows.
"We want to know where this car is and are asking for anyone who believes they may have spotted it to contact us.
"This was a frightening ordeal for the mum who saw her young children being driven off by the car thieves, but thankfully they were back with her unhurt in just a matter of minutes. The mum was also unhurt."
Police are treating it as a random attack.
They said the family, including the children, were "shaken" and it was an "extremely serious crime" which they were taking very seriously.
The force said "as with everything the answer to this horrible crime lies within the community" and it was really keen to work with the community to identify those responsible.