Many years ago I decided to add a daily walk around our neighborhood to our morning schedule. We started out small by walking around our long block. We clocked it in the car and found that it was six-tenth of a mile. That took about seventeen to twenty minutes depending on the skill set and age of the walkers. Over time we increased it to a forty five minute walk. This translates into about 1.5 miles per day. That’s about 350 miles per YEAR!!!
My kids are from birth to five. I purchased in line strollers that were long but not wide. I purchased single, double, and eventually triple strollers so we could adapt to any age combination we needed for whatever age group was currently attending the child care.
We go on walks when the temperature is over twenty (including the wind chill factor) but below eighty (including the heat index). We do not go outside if it is raining or if the sidewalks are slick with snow or very wet leaves. We also don’t go out if it’s terribly windy.
My neighborhood was built in the sixties and the sidewalks are pretty narrow. I wanted in line strollers instead of side by side strollers because we needed as much room on both sides of the strollers to allow the walking kids as much sidewalk room as possible.
I’ve never been comfortable with kids free walking. I don’t like the idea of the hand held loops on ropes. I always fear that a child will drop the loop and bolt off. I also don’t like the idea of kids free walking closely by the adult or a bit ahead. I don’t feel like we can safely keep track of them if they are not right next to us and attached to the stroller.
I ended up choosing a product called “tot a longs“. They are elastic bands that have Velcro clasps on one end and a hoop for the adult hands on the other. They stretch out four feet when new. They can be attached to the stroller by running the clasped end through the hope and knotting the end over a pole or handlebar on the stroller.
They can also be easily wrapped around the poles on the stroller to leave a small lead for the kid or attached to the front of the stroller fully stretched out to leave a long lead for the walkers upfront.
With a triple stroller we can accommodate as many as six walkers and three riders. We put two on the left of the stroller, two on the right of the stroller, and two up front ahead of the stroller. The walking kids position is based on age.
We place the loop end of the “tot a longs” in six locations on the stroller: the handlebars on each side, the middle horizontal railing of the middle stroller on both sides and the front bar of the front seat on each side. We attach the wrist end of the “tot a long” to each child with the oldest two being upfront, the middle children being in the middle, and the younger walkers attached to the sides of the front handlebars. We want the youngest children to be the closest to the adult pushing the stroller so they can be taught how to walk safely and behave during the walk. We also want to keep extra tabs on their fatigue level when they first start walking.
From the time the children can walk steadily we start having them walk. This is around the fifteenth month but we have had kids who couldn’t manage it until they were about two. We usually start them at a time when we can have them both walk and ride. This is when they can have a slot alongside the stroller or an empty seat for them to go into if they are tired or misbehaving. It takes a few weeks to get them used to doing the full walk. Within a few weeks they start fussing about going back into the stroller. This is our cue that it’s time to have them do the full walk.
If the child is capable of walking and in good health we don’t give them the option to ride instead of walk. Because we have two adults here the child who doesn’t want to walk is welcome to have a rest period in the house while the other kids are out. We do not push kids over the age of two in the stroller. They are too heavy and taxing on the adult pushing the stroller.
The hardest walker spot on the stroller is actually the middle spot. The middle kids are the ones that have to mind the wheels of the stroller and keep themselves positioned so they aren’t getting ran over by the ones behind them or walking into the ones in front of them. They have to pay attention to the children ahead of them and keep far enough away from the ones behind them to keep the younger ones from kicking them in the heels. They also have the smallest amount of room on the side sidewalk to navigate. When we move a child up to the middle position we have to work with them for a week or so to teach them to hold onto the horizontal railing and stay in position. A couple of trips over the wheel and they soon figure out they have to keep track of their feet in relation to the wheels.
We keep a pretty steady pace. The kids do a city block in about three minutes. It takes a little longer when you are training the front pack leader, a child new to the middle, and a new walker. The older kids are patient and understand they have to keep a slower pace as they have all been the child in that position before.
Part 2 of our series “Daily Walk” will focus walking safety.