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Five Things to Practice for Independent Walks

Getting kids ready to head out into the world on their own?  Here are some the things the kids here did to get ready.

  1. Get down on the groundAs each new kid here learned to toddle, I took them out of the wrap as often as I could so they could walk beside me, instead of on the side of me.  The kids generally loved it. They got to explore.  They got to interact with the world.  I got to see the world from their perspective: only a few feet above the surface of the ground.  The kid, noticed things I hadn’t seen before.  They showed me their world.  Was it slow?  Yes, yes it was, but it was more than worth it.  The more they walked, the more they could walk, and soon, I was free of carrying kids, and had buddies I could wander around with.
  2. Learn to LeadEarly on it’s nice to have a rapport at a distance with your kids.  A few simple instructions like left, right, stop, and u-turn are all they need to know.  These things come in handy, but you don't have to take my word for it:

    When Two was three or four years old, he and his buddy were gamboling through a local subway station.  It was delightful to watch.  They were about twenty yards ahead of me having the time of their lives.  Watching them run, I smiled.  As usual, I scanned the path ahead of them.  There was a man asleep on the ground another 10 yards or so in front of the kids.  That was no big deal.  He was several feet out of the way of the area they’d run through. 

    As I looked though, I noticed the light playing differently off the floor for several feet around him.  The area gleamed and sparkled.  I hollered “STOP!!!”  Two stopped with flare.  He jumped up, hurtling another foot or two, and landed squarely on both feet, now immobile a mere three feet in front of a giant puddle of pee. 

    His buddy met a more gruesome fate.  He kept running, lost his footing, and for all the world looked like a major league ball player as he slid across the floor of the subway station, right past the source of the newly deposited pond o’ piddle.  Two’s buddy’s afternoon was over.  His mom carted him away amidst much sighing and wringing of hands for a bath and a change of clothes.
  3. Own the SpaceExplore with the kid.  Make the neighborhood theirs.  The kid will be more comfortable, and the neighborhood will be also.  If people have seen the kid there, then in general, well, of course, the kid’s supposed to be there.  This cuts down immensely on the number of cases of ‘Oh My God! A child by themselves!’

    The more the kid explores, they’ll find It’s not a scary new world ‘out there’.  Instead, it’s their world.  They’ve seen it.  Now, they own it.  When they have to trundle from point A to point B, they’re doing it in their own little part of their world, not an unfamiliar landscape.  As they explore, let them wander into the cool and interesting stuff while you’re there.  Then, when it’s time to go from point A to point B, they’ll have already played out a lot of their curiosity.  (Even so, expect them to take longer than usual to get to a place.  There’s always new stuff to see.)
  4. Practice Practice PracticeOnce they’ve made the neighborhood theirs, practice the walk with them.  One of the fun ways we do this is for the kids to take me places.  We get off the train, I say, “Take me to the pub,” and off they go.  If they get confused I help out.  The kids get a huge kick out of showing me how to get somewhere instead of the other way around.  One additional note.  Allow for slop.  If they want to walk on the different side of a street than you usually do, who cares?  Let them make the route theirs, not yours.  You’re helping them build independence.
  5. Stalk the WalkStalking is like practicing the walk but twenty yards back and for different reasons.  What you’re watching for now is the bigger picture.  For me, it means watching for people that are alarmed by kids who are out and about.  The first few times I stalk, I’m inevitably approached by people—or I make myself known to those same people—who are peering around, desperately trying to attach the kids to an adult.  I let them know I am with the kids, but that they will be doing the route on their own soon, and that’s OK.

And that’s it!  Just a few steps that have helped out here with getting the kids out and about.  They helped the kids build confidence, and they helped me not worry so much.  Here’s hoping your future is piddle puddle free :)


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