10 Ways to Enhance Walks with Young Children
By Parenthappy.org on August 29, 2014
A walk with a baby, toddler, or preschooler makes everyone brighter. With fresh air, exercise, and a refreshing change of environment, walks can be one of the best remedies for boredom, restlessness, or fussiness. Walks also help children learn concepts and have memorable experiences related to science, language, math, senses, nature, and the community.
Walks are a perfect time to ask questions like, “Why do you think the bakery is closed on Mondays?” or “Why do you think they’re putting that addition on that house?” “Why do you think that house is for sale?” or “Why do you think there’s a roof over that train station?” Questions get kids to think, practice problem solving, and tune in to their environments.
Along walks, it’s easy to practice counting things, such as garage doors. “Triple garage!” “Double chimney!” kids will say. “Four benches!” “Five flags!” “How many snowplows do you think we’ll see today?” “Let’s count the number of airplanes we hear!”
Exercise and Fun
Kids love to jump out of the stroller and walk. They “walk up high” like a balance beam on the two-foot brick fences in town. They race down the sidewalk when there are no driveways. They like to play peek-a-boo with babies in the stroller and jump out from bushes with silly faces. They hug trees, pick up treasures for their pinecone collections, and play at the parks along the way. When you walk around the block after dinner, kids are like racehorses as they zoom down the sidewalk the moment you open the door.
It’s great to throw in sweet surprises along a walk. You can stop at the bakery for a cookie, the park for a swing ride, the coffee shop for a slice of banana bread, or the library to play with the dollhouse or the little trains.
Early childhood is such a sensory experience, and walks are a great way to sharpen children’s senses even more. “I hear a bird singing!” a three year old will exclaim. “Train coming!” a two year old shouts, and he’ll hear the chug chugging, the train whistle, and the dinging of the gates a few blocks away. “Do you think it’s a freight train or a people train?” He’ll listen closer to see if he can guess right before he gets a glimpse through the trees. When kids smell a skunk, a yard full of dog poop, or a nasty garbage dumpster, they make a big deal of it, yelling “Pee-ew!” and holding their noses and laughing. “Gross!” When children pass a bunch of flowers or the bakery, they stop and smell them too, enjoying their sweetness. Young children touch the morning dewdrops and feel smooth stones. “I see an airplane!” kids shout. “There’s a big one that’s close and a small one that’s far.” Helping kids notice sensory details makes walks even richer.
Walks are great ways to orient kids to their communities. You discuss that barber poles mean it’s a hair cut place and that the flashing lights in front of the fire station mean the fire trucks are ready to go. You walk by fountains and see if they’re on (for summer) or off (for winter). You help kids check the lightning rod in the park and talk about what it means when it’s flashing. You look in shop windows to see the sparklers for the Fourth of July, the pumpkins for Halloween, or the backpacks for back-to-school. You might name vehicles like construction rollers, UPS trucks, commuter buses, and taxis. You do walking errands to the post office, the grocery store, the coffee shop, the library, the park, the bakery, and the bookstore to help your kids learn about them. You often see the same people out walking, and greet them and their dogs. You walk around the old-fashioned car show in the summer, by the ice sculptures in the winter, and by the scarecrows in the fall. By talking about everything you see, kids gain community awareness and often re-create or play out scenes when they get home.
Walking in nature is perfect for discussing scientific concepts. When you stroll by the creek, you notice aloud how much water is flowing in relation to how much it’s been raining. When you walk around the pond, you point out the families of ducks and describe how they’re fishing so they can get energy to swim, stay warm, and waddle. You discuss the markers of the seasons such as falling leaves, wind, drizzly rain, snow, icicles and frost. Waving to your shadows, you talk about how the sun changes them at different times in the day. You walk on bridges over creeks and drop different things in the water, noticing with your kids as the leaves and the sticks float downstream and the rocks sink to the bottom.