As a mother of 4 children with only 4 years between them all I have spent a lot of time over the past few years walking with toddlers. In fact I have had a toddler since 2013! Now I say walking with toddlers, but what I actually mean is alternating between walking hideously slowly alongside a someone fascinated by every gate and piece of foliage, and running at speed after said toddler as they chase a squirrel, a bit of fluff anything really….
Now I am faced with twin toddlers who often go in different directions or one is dawdling (looking at gates) and the other is making a bid for freedom.
Ahhhhh! Which way first?
So you see I have had plenty of time (in between the periods spent in hot pursuit) to contemplate ways of making this time, when all they want to do is walk, more productive and less fraught with danger…
Tips for walking with toddlers:
- Make the walk and the learning a game. I play ‘Mummy Says’ with my twins to teach them how to listen and act when given instructions when out and about. It’s fun though – honest! It is a bit like Simon says only without the complication of only following the instruction sometimes. I give a series of Mummy Says instructions including: wiggle, walk on tip toes, hop one leg and then throw in the important ones…
‘Mummy says STOP!’
‘Mummy says WAIT!’
‘Mummy says STAND STILL!’
‘Mummy says RUN!’
You get the idea… my toddlers love this game and ask to play it every time they are out of their buggy. It makes it way less stressful and I feel more in control of the situation. I took a video of us playing today so you could see them having fun. Head to our YouTube channel to see it action:
- Make ‘spot it…’ cards. Before a trip to the park with all four of them we tend to make bingo style picture cards either using stickers or drawings of things we might see. I laminate them so we can reuse and we head off armed with felt tips and cards. This engages them so much that they forget to run off! It also means that they remain very aware of their surroundings as they are constantly looking and are next to me. They go slower because they don’t want to miss anything. They also keep stopping to mark off the items so this is not an activity to do if you are in a hurry!
Having them close to me gives me a chance to highlight safety things like how many cars there are etc… I find this also works well if we have to walk further than usual as they are too busy to notice. Our toddlers also play this game but from within the buggy.
You might also like to create cards that are completely nature focused and do nature walks with toddlers.
- For those who can count I set limits for how far in front they can go. I use trees or lampposts. They are told you can go 3 trees day and then you have to stop. The consequence of not stopping is that you have to stay next to the buggy and hold on. I found this worked especially well with my sons on their scooters. They had a habit of going far too far ahead and I couldn’t keep up pushing a double buggy. It used to give me palpitations, but now I don’t even need to do it anymore they stay close enough.
- If you have to go to the same place a lot (School run or even a weekly class) get them to stop at the same landmark each time. So for example my boys have to stop at the black parking machine. Once you do that everyday it does become habit. As the parent you can then start to become confident that they will stop there every time. This gives you comfort and still allows them a little bit of independence. This worked even with my unruly mob!
I can’t promise you that these always work, as those who have heard me bellowing after errant boys will attest to, but I am going to say that they work at least 80% of the time. More importantly than that though they start to create learnt behaviours so that over time you won’t need these techniques at all when you are walking with toddlers.
Remember if all else fails there is always bribery and the buggy!