It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Spring! Get out of that damned car!

Yes, there is still snow mounded in the front lawns of houses across the street (though not on my side of the street, which gets the morning sunlight). The air is crisp in the mornings, hovering just above the freezing point — but with the sun beaming brightly, warm enough for me to have a cup of tea and a quiet read on the front porch for 20 minutes.

The tots and I have been getting out every day, and I’ve been discovering that we have three dawdlers, one steadfast marcher, and one dasher-ahead. Makes for some logistical challenges, keeping the herd together, particularly since staunch walker me believes children should walk, not ride. Four-year-olds in strollers mystify me. (Frankly, I actively disapprove of healthy, able-bodied four-year-olds in strollers on a routine basis. The occasional necessary efficiency of plopping them into a stroller aside, for speed or logistical reasons, those kids should be on their feet!) Three-year-olds, too, for that matter. Once a child in my care is comfortably over two, they start walking.

We walk to the library (1 km) and back. We walk to the park by the river (.6 km), the other park by the river (.8 km), playgroup (1.2 km), the mall (2 km). For all these jaunts, the tots walk the entire distance, there and home again. The stroller is used to hold onto, and for tossing in stuff we find along the way. For anything over 2 km (downtown, 4 km), the park by the coffee shop (3.5 km), they take turns in the stroller.

Because walking is good for them, and if you allow enough time — and heck, we have all day, don’t we? — they can walk much further than people give them credit.

I would also suggest that if you never “have time” to walk a km (half-a-mile-ish) and back home again, something is amiss in your life. We get to the library (half-a-mile-ish) in about 20 – 23 minutes. Not such a huge chunk of time, and so much healthier for you and the environment to walk it than haul the car out for another 2-minute toxin-spewing, road-clogging trip.

Rather than seek ways to become ever more efficient, to cram more and more into less and less time, try for a little inefficiency. It’s very soul-restoring.

April 14, 2008 - Posted by | health and safety, outings, parenting


  1. For “herding”: I don’t know if you’ve tried this, but my daycare provider uses a rope with little handles knotted into it for the kids to hold onto when they take walks. She says it works really well to keep the dawdlers on track and rein in the dashers.

    I’ve seen that, of course, and when I worked in a daycare centre we used such a thing. In the centre, however, there was always a staff member at each end of the rope. I’ve never been comfortable using one on my own: with me at the front, no matter how diligently I look over my shoulder, how would I know if someone had let go or dropped something? Unless they were physically tied to it (and then what happens if someone stumbles?), I just wouldn’t feel sure enough that they were really secure. It’s not that it couldn’t be done safely, but I’d be too nervous.

    Comment by heels | April 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. I was just thinking about this on the weekend. My five-year old niece rode her bike to my house (accompanied by her dad). I’m not sure the exact distance between their house and ours, but I know it is a good 15-minute ride in the car, so a fairly considerable distance. She managed it just fine. It shows you that kids are capable of so much more than we often allow them to do.

    Good for her! And good for her dad, for giving her the opportunity to prove herself!

    Comment by Lucy | April 15, 2008 | Reply

  3. I never understood why people spent so much money for a double stroller when their older child was over two. I taught my son, while I was still pregnant, about the “safe spot” on the side of the stroller. He held onto that spot while we walked with our stuff in the stroller for a few months before a baby took the spot in it. This way he was used to hanging on. No strollers past two. Good philosophy.

    There are also those running board attachments you can get which allow an older child to take a breather, standing at the back of the stroller and holding the handle. Similar idea to your “safe spot”, the idea being that most of the time, the child gets him/herself around by foot.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | April 15, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hear, hear! I didn’t even learn to drive until my youngest was almost four. We walked everywhere (or bused it) and I always enjoyed it. But then I only had two and I never had the “herding” problem.

    And I so agree that with weather like this, there’s little excuse to not get out there and enjoy it.

    You must’ve learned to drive at about the same age I did! And isn’t this weather WONDERFUL???

    Comment by Zayna | April 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. I agree – though this winter, I was finding I didn’t have it in me to hang around in the cold for the length of the walk urging her on, especially being sick as I was, so I kept stuffing Pumpkinpie in there, putting my head down and walk-running to daycare. But now that nicer weather is here and I’m feeling mostly better, it’s back walking again, like last spring-through-fall seasons. And I must say, I am much happier this way. I think I’m actually going to put the stroller away in the basement so it’s not an option, because I want her not thinking of it that way once the new one comes along.

    I can’t blame you re: this winter. It was AWFUL. For the last month or so here, the sidewalks here were largely impassible. The city had run through its snow clearing budget weeks ago, and was saving money by making sidewalk clearing optional, I think.

    Good plan re: stroller in basement. Little pumpkinpie is in for a New World Order in a little while; nice to ease the transition a bit!

    Comment by kittenpie | April 16, 2008 | Reply

  6. I agree with the fact that they can walk much further than we think they can.
    I did however, also put them both in a double-jogging stroller when they were both well over 2.
    We used to walk or ride bikes to “the close park” but there were plenty of days when I wanted a little more exercise. So I’d put them in a double-jogging stroller and run them to another playground, where they’d get out and run around before I ran them back home. Fitness for all! 😉

    What you’re describing is a little different than the habitual, unthinking use of a stroller, though. Seems eminently sensible to me! When they’re old enough, there’s the additional option, depending on the roads and/or bike trails in your city, of you running while they bike.

    Comment by LoryKC | April 16, 2008 | Reply

  7. Walking is underrated, or worse, in the US especially. Few neighborhoods in our small city have sidewalks. When a little boy at my daughter’s preschool saw us walking up the drive he asked, “do you have a car?” When I told him that we did but that we live close by and like to walk, he thought awhile and countered, “is it broken?”

    You know, I’ve heard stories like this and always thought they were urban myths. America-bashing is a bit of a national sport in many countries, and you never know how seriously to take some of these things. Wow.

    Comment by katkins | April 16, 2008 | Reply

  8. i wish that where i lived in the states (maryland), there were more safe places to walk. even big box style strip malls aren’t designed for safe walking. my friend from overseas always laughs at me as we buckle everyone up to go from the book store to target–they are in the same center, but no side walk! and the other thing that irks me is that in our neighborhood–no one walks to the bus stop! mom or dad drives them in the suv! i’m planning to be the mean mom that makes my child walk–maybe even with an umbrella if it’s raining!

    No side walk? Good grief… As for being the “mean mom”? If you don’t find your child calling you “the meanest mom” once in a while, you’re probably not doing your job!

    Comment by Dana | April 16, 2008 | Reply

  9. We’re lucky enough to live in a pretty small village and therefore we can walk to several parks and playgrounds as well as a diner and some little shops. Jeffrey turned two in January and I’ve already been approached about how hard it must be to walk “all the way into town” (about 15 minutes) Of course with him it takes 40 but we meander along and have fun. Usually I bring the stroller in case we need to move along more quickly or have a need to carry things home.

    I’ve been pushing an empty stroller a lot the past couple of weeks. It’s a method of crowd control, and a great place in the spring to store the coats, etc., that you needed on the way out, but don’t need two hours later when the sun is higher!

    “Meander along and have fun.” Excellent! If walking is transportation and entertainment all rolled into one, instead of “exercise”, he’ll be much more likely to continue the habit life-long. It’s the difference between pleasure and obligation, isn’t it? I don’t walk because it’s “good for me”, the way I watch the junk food and go to the gym; I walk because I enjoy it. The fact that it’s good for me (my wallet, and the planet) is secondary.

    Comment by Dani | April 18, 2008 | Reply

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