Our family spends a lot of time at City Park in Denver. We live very close and love walking in, through, and around the park. We own a stroller and used it when our son was young, but as soon as he could walk without getting too tired (somewhere around 20 months), we started encouraging him to walk on his own instead of riding in the stroller. That means when we walk to the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Playground, we all walk to get there. When he was a little younger (up until about 2 1/2), we still brought the stroller just in case he got too tired, but now we don’t even bring it with us. He can walk and has more energy than I do (since apparently all my energy is sucked up by my kids!). Plus, it teaches him to be independent by learning how far he can walk before he needs to turn around, how to navigate on hills and curbs, what it feels like when you run too fast and don’t pick up your feet and trip over an uneven sidewalk, etc. It sets the expectation that as an able-bodied adult, he will need to walk from one location to another. Those aren’t lessons he is going to learn by riding in a stroller.
I know that it can be easier to strap him into a stroller or a wagon and tote him along, but we have found that when we do that, our son misses out on a lot of the learning that he gets when he’s walking and finds little things along the way that he points out or asks us about. So often, as adults, we don’t pay attention to those things. For example, my son is amazed at the little birds that he sees. My first mental response is “it’s just a bird,” but why is that bird any less amazing than all the other animals we came to see at the Zoo? The only reason is because we see those birds every day. If we stop and learn to appreciate the little things our kids notice, I believe we’ll also learn a thing or two from our kids. Not to mention that it is a lesson for me in patience, of which I could certainly use more!
Have we been caught before where we were too far away from the exit to make it home in time for lunch and nap? Yes. Did we learn our lesson to make sure we left enough time the next time for him to be able to walk the full distance back? You betcha! But do I get joy every time my son runs ahead of me pointing out the animals, trees, and yes, even goose poop to me? Yes. I don’t think I will ever get tired of that, even if I get tired of the whining that sometimes happens at the end of the walk when he’s ready for some food. Luckily, we’ve (mostly) learned that lesson too and make sure to bring along some toast and peanut butter each time we go out, as well.