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Get Your Toddlers Walking!

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I walked into our office waiting room recently and was shocked at how crowded it was!! It really wasn’t that there were that many patients waiting, but it was the fact that there were about 6 “triple wide” strollers holding children of various ages who were being wheeled in and parked in the waiting room. Not one toddler was walking or even standing!! I had a huge epiphany, children don’t walk anymore!!

So, after looking out at the parking lot in our waiting room, I watched as these strollers maneuvered around hallways and doors as mothers brought their children to an exam room. Now, I must tell you, these children were not infants, or even new walkers. They were not twins or triplets either.

These strollers were often holding a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old, all being pushed toward their destination. In many cases, the older children were playing with a Nintendo DSL or their mother’s iPhone oblivious to the fact that their mother was struggling to push the “wide load” down the hallway.  It was reminiscent of a Cleopatra movie, while she was being carried eating grapes!

I know I’m showing my age, but what happened to the day that the baby was in a stroller while the parent held the older children’s hands as they walked into our office, or a store or a restaurant. You may have even tried to maneuver around one of these mega strollers while shopping alone.  They take up entire aisles and should have to have a “wide load” sign with flashing lights. Not only are they a “road hazard” I think that they promote inactivity.

Knowing that we have a terrible problem with childhood obesity, it seems that these” strollers on steroids”, only help promote inactivity. Not only are these toddlers and young children not walking on their own, they are missing out on many learning opportunities.  How many times do you remember saying or hearing,  “hold my hand” before you started walking through grocery store the parking lot?  How about “we have to stop and look both ways” as you came up to an curb or intersection.  If there were more than 1 or 2 children it was not uncommon to hear “hold your brother’s hand and he will hold my hand and we will all walk together”.

These are important skills/lessons for a child to learn as they begin to establish some independence and autonomy.  You have to learn to ”run before you walk” and you have to learn how to navigate on your own by following simple “rules of the road” for safety, all of which needs to be achieved under a parent’s watchful eye during those early childhood years.

These skills cannot be mastered when you are being “wheeled” around town without the need to pay attention to what is happening around you. At the same time that a child is inactive in the stroller, they are often eating cookies, goldfish, cheerios or granola bars and drinking from the sippy cup which is conveniently strapped to the side of their seat.  The combination of inactivity and snacking cannot be a positive way to promote a healthy lifestyle.

I challenge mothers and fathers to get their children back on terra firma, and to hold hands and walk with their children rather than push those heavy children around. (can’t be good for the parent’s backs either).  Talk about where you are going, what you see along the way, and practice your child’s listening skills and following directions.  Return the mega stroller to the store and get those toddlers and pre-schoolers some good walking shoes!

What do you think?  Send me your comments!

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your comment or question to Dr. Sue!

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