By Michelle Mady
Bringing a toddler for a walk around town can cause some anxiety. From thoughts to tantrums in the middle of a crosswalk to wails from the stroller because of a high snack need. It's exhausting just to think about. Once your child gets to the older end of the toddler stage, there’s another layer of going for a walk: the stroller. Will they stay in the stroller? How long will they fight to get in it or STAY in it? Is it even worth it to think about transitioning from the stroller to walking independently?
As a preschool teacher who takes a group of 9 two year olds for walks daily, I will tell you that practicing taking a walk is an invaluable skill.
Sure, I'm a teacher in the city and have to use public playgrounds, so the ability to walk safely to the park may be more imperative early on. However, it is just as important for children in all areas. Learning how to walk safely, be attentive to your surroundings and navigate your neighborhood are life long skills that you will be grateful you have ingrained in your children when they are ready to walk to school solo!
Learning how to walk safely, be attentive to your surroundings and navigate your neighborhood are life long skills that you will be grateful you have ingrained in your children when they are ready to walk to school solo!
Teaching these skills isn’t as complicated and overwhelming as it may first appear.
Start by ditching the stroller.
Take walks around your block or even up and down your street. Remind your child to hold your hand while walking, looking up as cars drive by. Eventually add a street to cross into your walk, showing them how to look both ways and make sure the drivers see you before walking.
Use the right tools.
Worried you have a runner? Don’t use backpack harnesses. Holding the child from a tether behind them actually teaches them that they are impervious to danger, because something will pull them back. Consider hand tethers, which tether your child’s hand to yours as you are holding hands. If your child starts to run off, they will feel their hand being pulled back and your hand reaching- showing them who is actually keeping them safe.
Holding the child from a tether behind them actually teaches them that they are impervious to danger, because something will pull them back.
Try to make it interesting.
Who wants to walk the same way all the time? To increase your child’s interest level, and keep them wanting to stay by you, ask them what they notice. Talk about the trees changing colors or the construction going on at a neighbor’s house. Have them choose which way to walk when you get to a turn. Bring along some chalk to write a note on a neighbor's front steps. Making early walks engaging and meaningful will make your toddler more receptive to the rules involved.
Let your child know the expectations of the time together. Are you going to a destination or just around the neighborhood? Do they have to hold hands the whole time or only if they run off? Talk to them about what things they might see or the animals they may come across. Like pretty much everything else toddler, the more confident and comfortable they are with the expectations, the more successful your time together will be!
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.