Sentiments like “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” or “Not all who wander are lost,” bring up thoughts of listless hippies. And while those phrases might represent a blissed-out, stoned, directionless lifestyle, both describe (with brutal accuracy) what it’s like to walk with a toddler. Which should frankly make you feel grateful.
And yeah, you’re totally capable of getting out of the house for a stroll with your toddler. Still, the occasion can be much more fruitful and less frustrating for everyone involved if you keep a few tips in mind.
Don’t Plan On Getting Anywhere
If you go out of the house with your toddler hoping you’re going to get to a specific place at a specific time, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. One of the biggest reasons for this is that toddlers have no concept of time. They feel no sense of urgency. Two hours is the same as 30 minutes. In other words, you’d never want a toddler to bill you for time. You would get ripped off.
So the point is to give into the dawdle. And more than that, use it as an opportunity to see what they’re digging in the world. Keep in mind you may have to stop. Go backwards. Then forwards again. Go in a circle around that weird tree over there. Follow the sound of a garbage truck. It’s like walking a puppy, really.
A simple walk can go very wrong very quickly. So make sure you grab a handsome diaper bag before you hit the sidewalk. A poop could ruin everything. As could thirst and hunger. Make sure you have your bases covered, and your phone charged.
But the preparation does not stop at what’s in the diaper bag. Depending on how far you’re going, you might want to have a way you can cart your kid around if they get too tired (or just melt down and decide they’re not walking anymore). Umbrella strollers are good here. So are foldable, flexible baby carriers (which is not a euphemism for giving your kid to a hot yoga instructor).
It’s The Journey, Bro
Your walk is going to be way more fun if you can turn it into a game. That’s super duper easy considering your kid’s brain has made them experience the world like 80 percent of people in the parking lot of a Phish concert. Here are 4 ideas that will amp up the … trip?
- Scavenger Hunt: Slap some nature pictures on a sheet of paper and see if they can track down things like trees, and dogs, and bumble bees and … SQUIRREL!
- Bubble Time: Have a bottle of bubbles in your diaper bag all the time. Instant walk fun.
- Ninja It Up: Get into some toddler parkour. Jump over sidewalk cracks. Swing on the bike racks. Hop up and down steps. Yeah, it’s the easiest Ninja Warrior course ever, but it’s not like you were ever going to make it on the show, right?
- Collect Specimens: Kids love collections. Sure, you might not think think those pebbles and random twigs aren’t anything special, but it’s their collection. Besides, you can always pawn the stuff off on your partner. She’s sure to be following a “Cool Things To Do With Twigs And Pebbles” board on Pinterest.
Let Them Lead
Finally, a walk will never be more valuable than when you let your kid lead. It’s a perfect opportunity to get a headstart on their education. Because the fact is that you have enough passable information about the world to help them start understanding it.
Do they dig the texture of tree bark? Talk about how it’s like the tree’s skin. Are the fascinated by a bird call? Talk to them about what could be making the sound. Can they smell a stinky sewer drain? Talk about pooping. Basically, you can always revert back to talking about pooping. It’s the toddler fail-safe.
In the end, any toddler walk can be an adventurous journey. And when you partner asks how it was, you can always tell her what a long strange trip it’s been.