Finding balance with food, movement, and community for my (dairy-free) family.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Walking with Kids: How to Cross the Street

A nifty thing about where I live is that I'm within a mile--maybe a mile and a quarter--of just about everyplace I routinely visit:  the store, gym, school, library, farmers' market, post office.  For several of these destinations, when I calculate in the time I save by not strapping three kids into car seats, walking is almost faster than driving--and if not faster, certainly less stressful.

Today was a lovely, sunny, 50ish degrees late February afternoon, with most of our snow melted.  I've been obsessively reading the Katy Says blog at Aligned and Well lately.  This biomechanist turned wellness guru has convinced me that my kids and I need to be walking--a lot--to be healthy.

In January, she suggested the following resolution:
Identify one destination, a mile or less from your home or office, that you drive to at least 4 times a week. For me, it’s the post office. And my sister’s house. You just need to find one, and then resolve to never go there by car. This is your new on-foot destination.

So today, inspired by the weather, Katy, and a little cabin fever, I set off with my six year old, three-and-a-half year old, and 22 month old to the library--one of the mile and a quarter-ish destinations.  I took the stroller as back up (and to carry home books), but intended for all of us to walk as much as possible.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker
I quickly realized that if we are going to make walking a lifestyle, we're going to have to figure out how to safely cross the street.  Crossing the street may sound simple--unless you actually have three children around this age and have attempted to take them out unconfined by strollers or leashes, in which case you'll fully sympathize with my predicament.

By the end of our walk (45 minutes each way) here's the protocol with which we were having some success:

1)  Wait:  The six year old and three year old are allowed to scamper ahead of me, but must stay on the sidewalk (when there is one) or shoulder and stop and wait before reaching any intersection.  I meander along keeping pace with the two year old--who has excellent stamina, but no concept of moving in a direct line toward a destination.

2)  Together:  Everyone must be holding hands or holding on to a piece of the stroller as we cross the street.  The six year old and three year old were quick to grasp this.  The toddler resented this--preferring to walk freely--and decided to go boneless and thrash around in an attempt to escape hand-holding, which led to step three . . .

3)  Sing:  To the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" we sing . . .
Cross, cross, cross the street
Quickly cross the street

Cross, cross, cross the street
Quickly cross the street

The addition of the song helps the toddler tremendously, not only because it was fun, silly, and distracting, but because it defines the length of time for which he must be confined to hand-holding.  The song lasts briefly and then when it's done he's free to walk by my side again.  

Getting exercise together as a family is the holy grail of exercise in my book.  We still have a lot of kinks to sort out to making walking really smooth, but I was tickled that the toddler walked at least a mile of the 1.25 miles to the library .  

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