“What we wish we had known when we were new parents and educators”
“Walking is human’s best medicine”
Healthy activity habits are passed down from parents’ examples and imitated by children. From infancy, children learn from the adults they see, internalizing lifelong habits for levels of activity, types of movement, and time spent outdoors. Consistent schedules for movement time – at home and at school – help children to develop healthy, lifelong routines.
“The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.”
- Jacqueline Schiff
Between home, school and childcare, a minimum standard for children is two daily walks, each 30+ minutes.
Walking is one of the healthiest forms of exercise for humans of all ages! Babies can be carried, enjoy a stroller or wagon ride, and eventually progress to toddling part and then all of the way themselves each route.
Plan walks with safety and exposure to nature in mind. Walking the same route (with a long version and short version depending on the child’s energy) each day provides many benefits: relaxation, consistency and predictability, alternating between target focus and field focus, crossing paths with other walkers, observing the changes of nature throughout four seasons, and ample opportunities for training pedestrian safety habits.
Pace can be adjusted throughout the walk: strolling more slowly to observe a favorite tree or splash in puddles, speeding up to walk or gallop vigorously “from the big shrub all the way to the corner.”
Games that can make walks more interesting and fun and that train impulse control – such as “red light, green light,” “funny walks,” “run to the tree and back,” with simple variations on “interval training” – are often highlights for the child’s entire day!
“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.”
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Young children need times throughout the day for big movement with free choices. For them, “going on a walk” can look very different than simply walking. Find ways that toddlers are allowed to jump, run, climb, roll, and crawl indoors and outdoors. The less time that children are able to spend outdoors, the more creative adults need to be in finding ways to do that big movement indoors, safely. Dance and tumbling and occupational therapy games are great way to move with children!
- Understanding and valuing time outdoors
- Committing to consistent schedules
- Appropriate outdoor clothing and footwear for all types of weather
- Pushing through resistance – the adult’s or the child’s
What gets in the way
- Adults who don’t want to go outside
- Inadequate clothing and footwear so that weather deters going outdoors
- Overscheduling so that there is never quite “enough time” to go on that walk
- Safety issues: not enough adults to staff walking outdoors with groups of childcare or school children
“Our first steps are among the most celebrated milestones of our youth.
But for some reason, as we age, walking gets taken for granted.
That’s puzzling, since walking is one of the most comprehensive, and safest, fitness routines available.
All you need is a good pair of walking shoes and socks, and you are good to go.”
- Brion O’Connor
5 important VIDEOS found on YouTube
“23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” DocMikeEvans 2011
“I Forgot my Phone” Charlene deGuzman and Miles Crawford 2013
“Teachers TV: Innercity Forest School,” CPD College 2008
“Montessori Minute – The Outdoor Learning Environment,” West Side Montessori 2018
“Nature for Infants and Toddlers,” Nature Explore 2013
5 important Sites
American Academy of Pediatrics aap.org
Head Start National Center on Health, Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center