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Activities to Encourage Walking: It’s great for mental, physical and emotional growth of young children

Walking is healthy! It’s not only a great way to explore the child’s surroundings – be it indoors or outside – but it also helps relive stress and keeps children active. Unfortunately, we’re in an electronics age, where kids as young as eighteen months quickly learn to use tablets and computing devices to entertain themselves. The staff at the daycare in Gaithersburg, MD know the importance of walking for a child’s health and wellbeing. And they employ novel ways to get kids walking!

The Secret to Getting Kids to Walk

Fun and games – that’s the secret to teaching young toddlers and babies to learn to walk, as well as to encouraging older kids to continue walking! Once kids discover the joys of walking, it’ll be hard to stop them from walking every chance they get. But, if parents and caregivers go about it the wrong way, it could turn away kids for the rest of their lives from enjoying a good walk.

The best way to get kids walking is to make them realize the benefits of the walking activities you’re encouraging them to participate in. Also, to keep the spirit going, entice them (there’s a clown in the city square – let’s go and see them perform!), reward them (toys and treats), and encourage them (Great job – just two more steps to go).

The one way to make kids hate walking, or never want to walk again after an initial try is to scold, force, or threaten them into embracing walking activities. The tools, tricks and techniques used, to encourage walking, also vary depending on the age of the child. We’ll discuss walking activities you might try for both toddlers as well as older kids.

babies and toddlers walking

Making Babies and Toddlers Walk

Most young children need encouragement to do anything they don’t usually love doing. However, babies and toddlers need more help to begin their walking journey. Caregivers at our daycares in Gaithersburg, MD, and experienced child care specialists, often use the following techniques to encourage walking:

  • Cruising Activities

Toddlers lack the strength required in their lower limbs (knees, ankles, feet) to enable independent walking. Cruising – a technique that encourages children to move or glide sideways by holding onto a surface – is a great way to introduce young kids to the joys of walking. Get your child to “cruise” along sideways by holding a bench, bed or sofa. Surround the child with soft pillows or blankets, and be close behind to catch the child if they stumble and fall backward.

toddler and baby walking

  • Clothes Clutching Activities

Often, babies and toddlers may want to walk, instead of cruising, from one point to another, albeit over short distances. Or, perhaps they’re in the mood to walk, but there are no surfaces or items to hold and cruise along. A great technique in this situation, to encourage the child to walk, is to clutch a piece of the child’s clothing to support their attempts to walk. Parents may see staff, at the daycare in Gaithersburg, MD, do this by holding the child’s trunks or shirt/dress to support them taking small steps as they walk.

If you wish to try this technique, you may gently hold the child on both their hips to give greater stability as they put one foot before the other. To make things interesting, and to encourage the child to walk longer distances, place one of their favorite toys at the end of the walking path. This will motivate them to walk towards the “prize” and not give up until they’re reached it.

  • Independent Baby Steps Activities

As your baby’s limbs grow stronger, they’ll want to stand up more frequently. When that happens, the next phase is to get them to take tiny baby steps by themselves. Unfortunately, young children instinctively put their arms up, to grab something near them, and try to walk that way. To encourage children to walk independently, try giving them something – a rattler or pacifier – to hold onto in their hands. Then, place something they like – a colorful toy – at some distance from them, so they have something to inspire them to move towards.

With their hands full, clutching the rattler tight, babies will invariably start walking towards the object of their attention. A variation of this walk-inspiring activity is to use a remote-controlled toy that parents or caregivers can move forward as the baby inches closer (with their hands full!). Because the objective of this activity is independent walking, it’s important that the surroundings are soft and the baby is safe. If your house has tiles or hardwood, it might be a good idea to spread a plush blanket on the ground first, before you encourage babies to partake in this activity.

  • Monitored Explorer Activities

These types of activities are great, not only to encourage babies and toddlers to walk, but to also ignite curiosity and a sense of exploration in them. The daycares in Gaithersburg, MD may structure such activities in the form of scavenger hunts by hiding toys and treats around a baby-proof room, and encouraging toddlers and young kids to walk from place to place to hunt for and find those items. A few safety tips to keep in mind when planning such activities:

  • If there are several kids participating, then have both parents (or older siblings, adult caregivers or family and friends) watching the children, especially if the activity leads them to move from one room to another
  • Avoid hiding items near dangerous places, such as walls with electric sockets, fire places, tool sheds, or swimming pools
  • Keep the items soft and small, and do not place them at heights where kids must climb over obstacles to get to them

When monitoring your child’s exploration activity, step in with helpful clues and calls, such as “You’re getting closer…a few more steps”, or “No…walk to the right, not your left”, to make the game more exciting.

 

Activities for Older Kids

Once a child has grown older, the challenge won’t be so much about activities that teach them to walk. Then, the objective is to entice them to move off the couch – rather than watching TV or playing video games – to instead start walking. Here are some great activities to get older kids walking:

  • Nature Walks: Older children hate being cooped-up in the classroom or staying at home – especially in good weather. The staff at the daycare in Gaithersburg, MD use nature walks as a fun way to encourage kids to walk. Not only do children learn about nature and the great outdoors, but by walking along nature trails and pathways, they also get some much-needed exercise, sunshine and fresh air.
  • “Go find it” Games: When it comes to dealing with resistance against walking, distraction is a critical tool in the arsenal of parents and caregivers. One way to break down resistance, and make walking fun for older children, is to do an older-kid version of the toddler’s scavenger hunt we discussed earlier. Variations may include hiding prizes and treats across a trail – or all over the house; or planting clues and riddle cards and notes, so kids will walk all over the “game zone” and find a clue that’ll lead them to the next clue. (or prize)
  • Collector Competition: This activity works well if you are a parent to siblings, or a caregiver to several kids. When on an outdoor walk, ask each child to collect items of interest they see in the woods or park – leaves, twigs, unusually shaped stones. Make sure you tell the kids about some interesting prize that awaits the one with the most (or most unique) items collected.
  • Navigation Skills: Another exciting way to encourage kids to get walking is to keep them in control of their walks. Buy a map (or create one yourself) of the trail, park or walking path, and give it to the child. Then, encourage them to chart their own path for the walk. If you are a parent of several siblings, you could have turns making each one in charge of the walk every day. As they chart their way, you (or adults accompanying them) can teach them navigational skills by encouraging their journey: We’re heading north now; or why not try south today? So, which way should we go to head home?
  • Cultural Appreciation: You may also plan visits to cultural places, such as art galleries or museums, and make a day trip of walking. Most such institutions have exhibits and displays spaced over relatively long distances. To make things interesting, get the kids to document each exhibit they visit on their phones or scrap books. It might also help if adults are able to give kids some interesting facts about the exhibit they’re viewing, or the one they’ll soon see.

 

kids walking outside

As in every case where kids are involved, make safety your number one priority with walking activities. The staff at the daycares in Gaithersburg, MD will typically have more than one adult accompany kids on their nature walks or on guided tours. Often, adults will do a “dry run” first, across the entire walking zone, to ensure there are no risks to the children – harmful trees or bushes, steep cliffs or inclines etc. For any outdoor activities, it is crucial to protect children from the elements of nature. Essential measures include providing them with suitable clothing, sunscreen, and proper walking shoes.

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