Both our boys abandoned the stroller as soon as they were able to walk. Rather than battle to strap them in, I found it easier to have them walk. It took a little bit longer but if we budgeted enough time we were able to spend some good quality time together while walking to our destinations. A walk that should have taken less than five minutes often took more than twenty, but I found them observing objects of interest along the way, prompting them to ask intelligent questions that often had me googling for answers.
• Setting basic rules
We set several rules when they first decided they wanted to walk (the older one was 14 months old and the younger one, despite my best efforts to keep him in longer, gave up the stroller at 16 months).
– When they were younger, they always had to hold my hand when we left our building. If they chose not to do so, they would have to make the next trip out in the stroller.
– We stopped and waited at each garage entrance.
– I had them point out zebra crossings along the road so we could cross the street from there.
– I taught them the difference between the “stop hand” signal and the “walking man” sign and they would have to tell me when it was our turn to go. If there was no traffic light, we waited until there were no cars in sight.
– We resisted the temptation to jog across quickly if a car was farther away and walked slowly across when it was safe. This helped them recognize the importance of waiting patiently for the right time and to never run across a street.
• Crossing streets and turning corners
As they grew older, they would sometimes saunter ahead especially if they were with friends.
– On our daily walk to school I marked specific points at each crossing and garage entry way for them to stop and wait for me to catch up. They had to keep their toes behind the yellow line, or touch the black fence, for example.
– They could only cross the street while holding my hand. Similarly, they always had to stay within sight.
– I pointed out spots on the sidewalk where they had to wait for me before turning the corner, e.g. next to the stop sign, or even a broken stone in the wall.
• With bikes and scooters
We encouraged them to follow these rules as they began riding their scooters and their bikes. They are expected to wait for us at the designated mark, get off and walk their bike/scooter at every crossing and across every garage.
As cumbersome as this is, we know that these habits are now ingrained. And while we are always watching them closely, we can be pretty sure that they would never cross a street without us.
Sara Zaidi is a child therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over ten years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenging early stages of their children’s lives by explaining the cognitive, emotional and social development of children from a neurological and behavioral perspective. Read her parenting blog at www.sara-zaidi.com/parenting-blog and visit www.sara-zaidi.com to learn more about her work.