Kids’ walking personalities

Rebecca wrote a great post recently at Green Baby Guide that got me thinking about the impact of kids personalities on walking for transport with small children. Rebecca is a carfree mom with a fantastically unmotivated walker, and she bemoans the constant judgment of parents who push “big kids” in strollers even though no one really bats an eyelash at someone driving their kindergartner a few blocks to school. It also sounds like she’s done some pretty impressive rocky-style walk training to get her daughter hoofing it to kindergarten on her own steam. We’re big fans of getting kids walking for transport ASAP, and I’ve definitely done a few double takes at 5-year-olds in strollers, but I see her point.

Rebecca’s post reminded me that we best take some of our own advice and get cracking on the “walk training” with R. At 2 1/2, he hasn’t expressed quite the same intense internal drive to walk himself that H did at that age, and what with the new fancy bike around these parts, we’re perfectly happy to pedal him most anywhere. Throw in that our days have more time constraints than they used to because of his older sister’s school schedule, and you can see why he has been getting toted around passively a bit more than H at the same age. Thankfully, despite our neglect in this department, he has benefitted from solid time with his non-biking stroller-shirking grandmother, so all hope is not lost.

So partially on purpose and partially due to recent snowfall, we’ve been having R do more independent walking for transportation, and have realized he’s not actually  ”unmotivated.” We were making the mistake of often asking him if he wanted to take the stroller, and he would say “yes,” and was perfectly content to just ride along, so that’s what we did, especially since we were probably in a rush to get somewhere. But if we simply don’t offer the stroller, he’s perfectly content to walk, and as it turns out, walks along at a pretty good clip.

There is one slight glitch. At the end of a long day, he’s apt to say, in a very serious voice “Mama…I too tired to walk.” He’ll say this over and over, with a fluctuating amount of whine involved. But here’s the kicker, he’ll just keep walking. He doesn’t even slow his pace really, and can often be distracted with a game of running to the next tree, so I’ve been able to pretty much ignore the whining without even having to try.

At a similar age, H would fiercely insist that she could walk by herself, that she had absolutely no need for a stroller. But once presented with the walk itself, she would dawdle fantastically (walking with her still can involve a lot of urging). She was having a blast, but man did she enjoy driving us crazy by not actually *going* anywhere. We eventually got this behavior mostly kicked, but have found that now that there is snow and we’re walking a bit more often, we’re having to push through a fresh round of whining with her as well. I trust she’ll adjust here shortly (but I can’t really blame her for wanting to bike…).

So, it appears that R may not be as unmotivated as he first appeared, and that his walking might actually be pretty good from the transportation point of view (for a two-year-0ld anyway) which is an awfully nice surprise. We’ll see how he fares as the distances increase, but for now, thanks for the nudge to get him out on the sidewalk, Rebecca.

About Nathan

Nathan is a postdoctoral research fellow in neuroscience. He thinks parenting is way more fun when you don't have to worry about car seats.
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6 Responses to Kids’ walking personalities

  1. Sid Burgess says:

    Dorea,

    We have followed this idea of “walk early” with our kids. So far, I suppose we can count ourselves fortunate. Both of two older girls (5 and 3) are avid walkers. Going careless is certainly helping the situation. We don’t bike (yet) so walking or the bus is our only option right now. (which as you can imagine, is simply heaven!).

    Thanks for taking the time to write down your thoughts. Appreciate the opportunity to read them.

  2. mamavee says:

    Ohhhh I have thoughts on this.

    My kids hate walking. I kinda failed the walk training. But- back when my oldest was 2.5 I remember living in our walkable town and walking with her around the neighborhood. I was growing big with baby #2 and we walked about three or four blocks. And then she stopped freaked out and refused to go a second further. It’s burned in my mind the torture to get her back home. I did not bring the back backpack and I am not fond of holding things in my arms. It’s wierd- I was a babywearing- but holding a baby/tot tires my arms out a lot. I’m not strong enough to get them on my shoulders either. So it was a block by block carry her until she slid over my belly and then we’d stop and complain and start all over.

    After that I always had a Ergo with me. Or a stroller. Once we moved to Newton we strolled more with the double and the whole reason I started biking was b/c our walking distances were too long for them to manage on their own without all of us freaking out. Part of my own issue is when I walk- I tend to move fast. Unless it’s a beach/ woods ramble – and even then I tend to make haste. I need to get them to walk more. The other issue is I dislike suburban walking- so walking around at home is no fun for me. We do walk around the school area, leaving the bike or car and do our errands without door to door bike service. T who is 5 complains the most now. It kinda bothers me that my kids aren’t walkers since I used to be one. But I often tend to prefer bike over walking for even short 1 mile. distances. mostly b/c the bike can carry my stuff.

    anyway I plan to take more trips ( esp in nicer weather) to boston to just walk with the kids.

  3. Alex Dupuy says:

    At age 3, our daughter was not an avid walker, but after she got comfortable with her like-a-bike “balance bike” our stroller got much less use – having the wheels extended her stroller-less range significantly and the sheer fun of cycling made it much more attractive. Although the winter season is not ideal for learning, it might not be a bad time to see if you can pick up a used one on Craigslist or wherever for less.

    Best balance bike of course the Kokua Jumper, although expensive and rarely seen for sale as used – their best feature is their lightness – which matters more for you than the child, as you will inevitably have some moments where you end up carrying both the bike and the child. But our first balance bike was a Kinderbike (mykinderbike.com) and we were pretty happy with that too. The wooden Skuut bikes seem like a good choice for younger (~2 yrs old) or indoor use.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I’d say my daughter’s walking personality is similar to Mamavee’s kids’. I should do another post about what my Rocky-style training involved. Like Dorea’s son, my daughter would often complain about being too tired to walk. However, she would NOT keep going. She’d stop in her tracks and cry. Several times we’d attempt an errand without a stroller and end up carrying her back. Very tiring.

    It’s nice to hear that R isn’t really “unmotivated” to walk after all. I’ll definitely admit to holding off the walk-training for so long because I liked the convenience of the stroller lifestyle myself!

  5. Andy Lucus says:

    First I just wanted to take a second and thank you for taking the time to write about the troubles with kids and walking at an early age. I believe if we just talked about our experiences with kids using alternative transportation it would help to get more people out of cars, due to such an unknown.

    My son and I have been car less for almost his whole life (now age 4), due to economic reasons and life choices. He was a born runner, so that definitely helped us to get to a bus stop. Then those dreadful days of slowly going kids always happen. I found the beauty in my son’s patience, who would tell me to not worry that another bus would come. He also taught me that as a care less family you can’t rush. We’ve learned together that rushing is something that frustrates both of us and can make or brake our morning, we have to prepare. Not using a car has honestly taught us to listen to each other, where having a car its pretty easy to just “go, go, go ” all the time.

    One thing that helped us with the “no walking” routine was the Skut (no pedal bike). It really made everything that much more exciting and we were never late for the bus. We could also take it on the bus and park it inside the preschool. One thing I find remarkable is that in a year, from 2 to 3, yrs., my son became street wise. He could run out in front of me and I didn’t have to worry, he learned to stop at the end of sidewalks. He goes to headstart and they test his social skills. One thing that was remarkable was his score on restraint, + 90%. He scored normal on everything else, but has an amazing social restraint score. I believe this is due to being a carless family, because he had to learn to control his body, to stop.

    I know its extremely hard to have a kid who won’t walk, but it took us a year, and he can now walk over 2 miles with no problems at the age of 4. I also think we should get into a culture of stroller use, because all kiddos are built differently and its a way to accommodate. If you travel to Europe they’re are tons of older kids in strollers and way more people walking.

    Sorry about the long message, but kids and transportation is a very real thing, and keeps people from using alternative transportation.
    - Andy

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