Moving your body and getting fresh air can do a world of good in helping you to feel physically and mentally better. Too bad toddlers don’t fully understand. Many parents find it to be a struggle to encourage their young children to walk independently, which can ruin an otherwise relaxing experience. If your toddler struggles to get excited about walks, use the following tips to transform their attitude.
Pick A Fun Destination
Don’t just go for an ordinary walk around the neighborhood. Your toddler will look forward to the walk if they think they’re going somewhere exciting. Try to choose a place to walk that’s convenient but will also spark your toddler’s interest and allow them to explore.
For instance, look up a playground or park in your area that you’ve never been through, or hit up a different trail you’ve never taken. If you don’t mind a drive, consider going to the next town over or taking a ride to the beach, forest, or another outdoor spot that’s engaging but also great for family walks.
Make It Into A Game
Children have short attention spans, especially the younger they are. You can’t expect your toddler will simply be happy to walk peacefully for the full outing. But turning the walk into a game can keep them focused and motivated to keep going. The type of game you play will depend on your child’s age and skill level. You don’t want to try something too confusing, or else they’ll get frustrated, and it can make the walk unbearable.
For example, Playworks suggests playing a color game – choose a color and have each family member find an item that matches it. You could also prepare a scavenger hunt ahead of time and instruct your child to find various nature items (like leaves and rocks).
Bring Along Distractions
Another way to keep your toddler occupied on the walk is to bring along distractions you can utilize. For example, 5 Minutes for Mom suggest bringing along bubbles that your child can blow as you carry on. You can easily find these for cheap at the dollar store, and it’s small enough to fit in your bag or pocket. Plus, it’s a no-mess activity your child can do as they walk.
Other ideas include bringing sidewalk chalk they can color with, or a toy camera that your toddler can use to pretend they’re a nature photographer.
Pack Snacks & Water
Many toddlers will say they’re hungry or thirsty on a walk if they want to stop. While it may be true that they’re hungry or parched, it could also be an excuse to wrap up the walk. But don’t let your kid get the best of you.
Come prepared for the walk with some snacks and water. You can take a quick 5- to 10-minute break with your child if they ask for either or, and once they’re done, encourage them to get back on their feet to continue the walk. Choose snacks and water bottles that are easily portable.
Bring The Right Equipment
When you have a toddler, you can’t expect them to walk very long or far. Some 2-year-olds are just getting the hang of being stable on their feet. So, it is important to bring the right gear while going on a walk with your young child to ensure they can make it through.
Consider bringing a stroller if your toddler still uses one regularly. It’s best to choose a stroller that will work on all sorts of terrain (both smooth and bump), so you can take it wherever you plan to walk. Try to find a model that’s lightweight and easily folds, so you can easily throw it in your car if you’re driving to the area you’ll take a walk, like a beach or a playground.
You may find it more convenient to use a baby carrier since this will keep your hands free. But remember, it takes more effort to put a child in a carrier versus a stroller, which they can hop in and out of.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Finally, if you want your toddler to have a good attitude on the walk, then you need one yourself. Refrain from getting frustrated or upset with your child. They’ll be able to sense your disappointment, and it won’t do much to help rectify the situation.
Rather, focus on using positive reinforcement to keep your child motivated. This involves using a stimulus – like positive compliments, a high-five or hug, or even a reward – to reinforce good behavior.
Vocalize when your child is doing a good job on their walk. Tell them you’re proud of what a big kid they’re being. Toddlers may not fully understand the concept of a reward, but don’t be scared to coax your child into good behavior with the promise of a special treat after a well-behaved walk (like a trip to McDonald’s).
Sources: Playworks, 5 Minutes for Mom, Very Well Mind, Making Danish,