Monday, August 4, 2008


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.

More Resources

  • 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").


Abbe said...

Age does make a difference with some of this, faster than you'd think! When we visited our daycare/preschool for next year I figured it was a 10 minute walk for the adults or 45 minutes if we ever had to let K walk without a stroller because of all the herding we'd be doing. That was in March, when she was not quite 2 and a half. By the time it was time for her to visit too (she's now 2 years 10 months) she walked there with no stroller at the same pace as us, with few distractions along the way.

Also, our confidence that she will wait to hold a hand at the curb has gone way up, and we no longer worry about whether it's a quiet street or a big street - any time she's on the sidewalk, she can walk by herself until it comes time to cross the street.

Angela said...

It's good to know things get easier! I also think it's interesting that my mom holds H's hand a lot more than we do -- she says its that she's not as fast as we are, but I think you may be more on the right track with the trust thing (we've just had more experiences walking with her, so we know what we can trust her with).