Our toddler is increasingly uninterested in riding in her stroller. She wants to walk! Of course, the problem is that walking with a toddler isn’t always, um, productive. And then there’s the problem of walkability and safety.
Walkability and Safety
We live in a fairly walkable neighborhood, but safety is a big concern when we walk. We are lucky that we can walk to daycare, stores, parks, and the library, but to walk to these places we sometimes have to walk along busy streets. To stay safe, we have some rules about walking.
- When we are walking on a quiet, neighborhood street, H. can walk on her own (without holding a hand) and holds hands to cross the street (or gets carried). If she goes into the street, she’ll get a time out (and if it is feasible, we’ll return home for the timeout to show the seriousness of the problem).
- On a busy street, we make her hold hands all the time (or hold onto a stroller or bicycle if holding hands isn’t doable). When crossing a busy street, we generally carry her, as it takes a long time to cross the street and she’ll often forget about the holding hand rule before we get to the other side.
- Personally, I’d like to start doing more with H. to emphasize walking safety, such as this activity, or starting to read some books about walking safety, or better yet, singing songs about walking safety.
The Frustration Factor
To keep H. from driving us completely crazy as we walk with her, we use the following strategies (and we are looking for more, so please leave some in the comments).
- Don’t try to go very far or very fast. Our best walks tend to be short ones. To the nearest park is a quarter mile. H.’s limit is about a half-mile walk (she’ll get tired enough to want to be carried by the very end).
- Walk to someplace exciting. That way, there’s a reason for your child to keep walking, and you can remind them about your destination when they start to slow down.
- Play games. We do a stop/go game (basically red light, green light) that our daughter likes. We’ll also move her forward with “Can you run to the ______?”
- Especially when you are starting, have a backup plan. We often bring the stroller, even if we are planning to walk, because that gives us a backup if H. gets tired, and it gives us an enforceable threat if she isn’t behaving resonably.
- http://www.walktoschool.org. This looks like a terrific campain, designed to get kids walking to school (and to make communities walkable). Why walk to school? The organization gives three reasons: to enhance the health of kids, to improve air quality and the environment, and to reduce air pollution.
- How walkable is your community? Answer a few questions about your walking trips and get a walkability score and tips for improving your walks and your neighborhood.
- The walking school bus. Get together with other parents in your neighborhood and form a “walking school bus” in which one or more parents walks with several children to school. Great idea!
- Walking safety. Here’s a site that includes pictures of cross-walk signs and lights to teach children about safe street crossing.
- And don’t forget that Google Maps now offers pedestrian directions (choose “Walking” rather than “By Car”).