Walking Toddlers – Nurturing curiosity VS getting somewhere

5 June, 2013

We were walking home from the bus stop, only a 100 metre walk but I was already whipping out the “Should we march? Skip? Jump?” in order to cajole my two year old totΒ  along. After a bit of very slow marching, skipping and jumping she suggested “Let’s breakdance!” and proceeded to bust out an almost perfect Babyfreeze – that classic head-on-floor-pose youngsters do whenst having some hip-hoppity merriment.Β  I was agape, impressed with her street cred (Crumbs! She’ll be tagging the playground next!) “Who taught you that, Ramona?!”-expecting to hear the name of one of our cool chums- Ramona replied “Nana.”

Breakdancing the rest of the way home, with this one single freeze, was, er, quite slow.

I’ve always been fairly happy with our “walks”- although they are less “one foot in front of the other” and more “OMG check out this cigarette butt! And let’s run up these steps! And swing this gate! And poke this crack! And stare at this dog poo for yonks! Dude, seriously LOOK AT IT!!!” We also always sniff every flower, trace every aeroplane trail and admire every shop window.

(The window of the betting shop at the end of the road, the one next to the drug-dealing pasty shop, has the BEST displays full of pictures of cartoony people and animals. So good are they that each character gets their own song, on Ramona’s insistence. If you have a local Coral you might recognise the likes of DJ Bob who likes corn on the cob and Leprechaun Bill who loves to dance on the window sill. We spend a long time admiring these folk on our way to the post box, warbling away down on the corner with the crackheads.)

We haven’t ever gotten anywhere fast, but I have been okay with that. In fact, for Ramona’s whole walking life I have cherished these singing, skippy, pokey dawdles. I have very purposefully chosen to help Ramona see that the journey is as important as the destination. In fact, my mum (the aforementioned break dancing Nana) on one such walk to the bus praised my patience and attitude. I explained that I always intentionally allow an extra half an hour to get to places, so that we can prioritise curiosity and explore our surroundings at Ramona’s pace. If we needed to go somewhere quickly we used a sling or a buggy happily.

Helping toddlers walk

This shot is nicer than the one outside the betting shop

But now… now I would like to be able to get to places. The shift is probably to do with having baby Juno on my front in a wrap and feeling like it would be easier to hold Ramona’s hand than push a buggy or wrap her on my back too. I also feel like she is reaching an age where it is good and appropriate for her to walk most places, both for her physical needs and autonomy. I really love the philosophy of Montessori who, amongst other things, was a firm believer in getting kids walking everywhere as soon as they are able.

Ramona IS able to walk everywhere, it would just take us one billion years to get anywhere.

So although I am not a fan of adults arbitrarily deciding something needs to change and then making children do something (parents do this alot and I think it is a bit unfair and quite possibly impacts the trust relationship, don’t you think?) I feel I need to help Ramona WALK- one foot in front of the other styles. And I want to do it without bribing or rewarding (I don’t think these are good for kids) and with as little cajoling/skipping/marching/breakdancing as possible. And also, high hopes I know, while still keeping the philosophy of curiosity and journeying alive.Keep your curiosity sacred

I am wondering if having two different labels for our walks might work – explaining to Ramona before we set out that this is an “A-B walk” and that we just need to get there, or this is a “Dawdle walk” and we can take as many curiosity stops as we want.
Have you found a way to walk with your toddler without standing outside betting shops singing for too long? Have you read of any creative solutions to this? Would love to hear your sugestions. I will keep you posted on our two types of walk experiment…

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  • Jem 5 June, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I was very “lucky” with Isabel in that she was always happy to just walk from A to B and never really dawdled. The irony being that later on I felt she was missing out on sniffing the flowers etc once in a while and tried to push her in that direction (it didn’t work). I have a feeling Oliver is going to be more like Ramona, and at the rate we’re going it won’t be long before we find out!

    No idea when it comes to solutions to your problem mind you, sorry πŸ˜‰

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      I wonder if it IS a lot to do with temperment, perhaps some kids are in built with this A- B kind of attitude! And we just need to roll with it?!

  • Yael 5 June, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Sounds so familiar!
    My tips for purposeful walks:
    Find 2 attractive spots on the way and focus on them (swings at the end of the journey, for example).
    Admire her running abilities.
    Play catch.
    Walk very VERY slowly for a few seconds, allowing her to be ahead of you, and start running. it worked great as a motivational trick with my daughter.
    leave your home an hour before you need to be somewhere πŸ˜›
    Thanks for another great post!

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Ooh, the slow walking/ running thing is a number I haven’t tried! Thank you!

  • Kirsten 5 June, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Does Ramona have a scooter? My son and I always dawdled along happily at a snail’s pace, but I find it’s not the same for his little sister because we always have to be GOING SOMEWHERE – like taking big brother to school or picking him up from school. So I totally know how you feel. But she really loves going on her scooter, and if she’s not able to go fast enough, or gets tired, I can just pull her along to keep her up to our speed. I’d definitely recommend it!

    Wish I’d read your post before going out this morning. I just hurried my 2yo into her car seat in a way that was upsetting for both of us (she was just mucking around and wouldn’t get in), rather than realising we were in no hurry to get home and so could just muck around for a while. Now feeling v bad about it… πŸ™

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Ramona hasn’t quite nailed the steering bit yet so spend the whole time pulling, which is fine for some distances, but not if I need to be carry shopping etc..
      OH, now don’t feel bad – tomorrow is a new day and you can always repair those kind of disconnects with cuddles and games and kisses! x

  • Angela 5 June, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    This post resonates with us at the moment! Lewis is 3 and a half and getting places with him takes an age. Like you said, most of the time this isn’t a problem but when we’re in a rush (which is more often than I’d like!) it’s a pain. I hate hearing myself say ‘come on! let’s hurry’

    We stopped using the buggy sometime last year – the good one broke and the cheap one is difficult to push – so he’s got used to walking (and we got used to carrying him home!) I like the idea of specifying what type of walk before you go out, so would love to hear if that works. We got Lewis a little balance bike and now he’s got the hang of it he can speed along while we walk. This has helped us in the last couple of weeks but if he gets tired we have to try to get him AND the bike home!

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Yep, am hearing you about carrying the extra things you use to get them places! We need some kind of blow up kid vehicle that we can deflate and put in a pocket when they are done with it. I hate hearing myself say that too, it sounds so rat-racey!

  • Alex 5 June, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    If we need to get somewhere fast baby goes in wrap and toddler on the scooter otherwise we have to leave extra time for toddler activities along route.

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      Gosh, these scooters are the TICKET! Maybe we need to just spend loads of time helping her get used to steering it better….

  • Mrs C 5 June, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    It’s tough isn’t it. I generally find that Little Miss C will normally do the opposite of what I want on a particular journey. If we need to be quick she’ll dawdle. If I’ve left plenty of time she’ll run there and we’ll be super early. I agree with the scooter comment above. When we NEED to be speedy she can do it on her scooter, but it does take a certain level of trust to make sure she doesn’t scoot into the road whilst I’m trying to deal with Master C in the buggy. Unfortunately he’ getting so heavy that my back can’t always handle him in the sling.

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Yeah, I’d be fearful of the roads and things too, especially as loads of the roads and pavements seem to transition too smoothly around here, it is hard to tell when they start and stop. I am really anxious about the roads at the moment, it is odd for me to be so worried. πŸ™

  • VicG 5 June, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Well, as the mother of two very physical boys it has always been hard to get them to stop and breath the air, that is until this last school Easter Holiday when I had the joy of taking them to Botswana! (now I know we don’t all have this as a resource) – anyway, we took them to 3 private camping sites where they got to do walking safaris and learn how to track animals. Nothing electronic was allowed, and they were encouraged to use nature as their toys and entertainment, with camp hands teaching them how to build fires from elephant poop, and how to fire a sling shot, even, how native Botswanan folk back in the day built shelters from twigs and leaves. They thought it was hilarious when their huts got wrecked in the night by a troop of very noisy baboons! The Result?…..they still go everywhere at break neck speed, but I find them now in the garden “tracking” snails, building dens and trying to make fire with our dogs poop πŸ™‚

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      WOWOWOW this sounds incredible! I would love to hear more!!! I love that they have bought aspects of it back and are making it work in the garden, so awesome. Aren’t kids so flipping wonderful! And what a mum grabbing hold of such an adventure too πŸ™‚

      • VicG 6 June, 2013 at 6:59 am

        check out the pics on my FB page! It was an amazing adveture…I was determined to teach them that holidays aren’t all about Disney World! As part of the trip we got our guide to take us to a native village as I wanted them to see how the “real” folk there lived. They still talk about it! But what was amazing was that the whole village stopped for us and gathered round us….they looked at Jed (6) very confused and kept stroking his arm. In the end our guide told us that they were asking him “what” Jed was and if he was some kind of baboon!…..this entire village had never seen such a young white human being before – Jed was amazing and took the experience in his stride.
        I think that as a Mum, I have learnt that it’s not always about going slow, but it’s about being brave enough to drop your children into situations which makes them stop in their tracks and think “whaowwww neddy”

  • Janine Fowler 6 June, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Unfortunately, we don’t walk anywhere unless we are just out to adventure and dawdle. Right now, we can rarely even get out the door, as the almost-3-year-old nudist won’t change those core values for nobody. It takes a lot to get the kid into a pair of pants. (We just missed his little brother’s doctor visit – A big who-cares in my opinion, but still – because big brother absolutely refused to put on clothes and get moving.)

  • Francesca 5 June, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Let her! By the time she’s 5 the fascination with every leaf and cigarette butt is (nearly) gone. I know, I have a 3 and a 5 year old. I used to get slightly irritated by it with my first toddler but then I reasoned that I was self employed and what difference did an extra half hour make? Maybe I could learn something by taking more notice of the world around me, be more mindful. And I am very grateful to my lingering toddlers.

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Hmmm, yes, I hear you! As I talk about above I have cherished this for a long time but have reached a point where I need to stay sane so wondering if it is possible to both embrace curiosity AND arriving at places! Surely it CAN be done! Hehe πŸ™‚

  • Mary Firth 5 June, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Eleanor is very much like this too – I find myself yoyo-ing between celebrating her curiosity in everything and seething with frustration because I’m just basically bored. (I’m always late anyway so the A-B thing doesn’t feature as much as it maybe should…)We have three fallbacks: the scooter (though this can backfire a bit when you find yourself carrying a tired toddler AND scooter), a sort of dance routine that goes “walk.. walk… walk… walk… run run run JUMP! Hop hop hop etc (with the result that you often hear her singing out “scoot scoot scoot” as she’s scooting or “run run run” as she chases you – for extra snigger effect) and, if I’m absolutely desperate, carrying. Except that she won’t go on my back and my bump’s now too big for slinging on the front, so it’s a reluctant solution. Don’t know what I’ll do once the baby’s born though.

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      Oh, the boredom. I know. I feel so bad about feeling bored as it is so clearly my problem!
      I am absolutely going to try your song and dance… even though I think really what I am longing for is to just walk along, hand in hand. I must remember this will come down the track.
      I had to go back to a hip carry with a ring sling when pregnant, it was fine for shortish walks but had to buggy it for the long ones.

  • Ruth 5 June, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    When Tom was at this stage, we turned every ‘need to get there’ walk into a series of short races. ‘Bet you can’t beat me to that lamppost…’ ‘Beat you to that car.’ ‘No way can you beat me to that next drain cover’ kinda thing. Ramona is probably a much more rounded individual than Tom, but he’s such a competitive wee bugger that was the best way of keeping him moving and having fun without any hissyfits or drama.

    • Lucy 5 June, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Hahaha, Tom sounds awesome πŸ™‚ If Ramona is anything like her dad she has a MAJOR competetive streak, at the moment she is a bit to fixated on her own amazing agenda to really take much notice of any of my fun cajoling! I will give this a crack tomorrow I think πŸ™‚

  • Jo 6 June, 2013 at 3:31 am

    re bribery – I relabelled it ‘extrinsic motivation’ and just run with it…
    The competitive ‘walks’ Ruth mentions above also worked for us. As did ‘can you get to the post box by the time I count to ten?’
    Also the guessing game – can you spy something red/something with legs/something with two wheels (always making sure it’s something just a little further ahead).
    Distraction – telling a story, singing a song, reciting the times tables. In fact my children are quite good at their times tables because they work well at a fast march..
    Good luck is all I can say.. just think how intelligent Ramona will be with all this conversation and stimulation on her daily walks…

  • Sian 6 June, 2013 at 7:32 am

    We used to have a similar problem (we still do some days) but mostly it’s now a case of “slow down, stop!” as he runs into the distance, stops and looks around him, has a little explore and then as soon as I catch up he’s off again!!!!!!
    Your European trip sounds amazing : ) the flea markets of far distant lands, bliss : ) not to mention all that wonderful forest to explore : )

  • Kentish town mama 10 June, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I used the sling a lot with my first but a couple of post birth issues make that more difficult with number two, so – given that I have the buggy anyway with the second – the buggy board comes in very handy. It folds up when we have time to dawdle, and when we have to be somewhere, then the older one can jump on and we can chat along the way about what we see. Plus, as the buggy is rear-facing, the two kids can interact and we can sing songs together. If the older one is tired after a day out, I still keep a sling underneath to pop the baby in, and toddler can take a seat.

  • andrew 10 June, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    We use a scooter for O (4 year old boy). The key to keeping him safe is a walkie talkie. We got him a set for Christmas (proper ones not toy ones). As he is obsessed with firemen, police and the like, he loves it. He can scoot ahead, and we just radio him to stop when he gets to a road (obviously we trust him to stop!)

    Now my wife has got a scooter too – she has had to stop driving because her bump (she’s pregnant with number 2) has got too big (if she can reach the pedals, she can’t turn the wheel!). I’ll be intrigued to see how it works out for her!

  • Bibi 28 June, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    If you want to keep going for a while, try this: “Ouch, don’t do that! Do not step on my shadow, ouch!” This will get my boy running for my shadow in no time πŸ˜€

    • Bibi 28 June, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Oh yes, and a bike. He has been riding his walking-bike (?) sine he was 2 years old. You can actually get somewhere and a lot quicker than just walking. He just turned 3 years old and is ready for his first bike with peddles, no training wheels!

    • Lucy 28 June, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      ARHAHA GENIUS! I love this idea, definitely going togive this a crack!