taking the simple route
Three reminders before you and your toddler set foot outside.
Before you know it, that little baby you once had has learned to walk independently. Naturally you have had to adjust your house accordingly, by preparing the indoor environment to be a safe place for exploration and gross motor exercise. But how will you manage outside, now that the great outdoors beckons? Consider these three points before you open that door………..and then enjoy the adventure!
We all enjoy the freedom of independence
The ability to balance upright on two feet brings an entirely new perspective to a child, and with this altered view of the surroundings comes the realization that the ability to walk is something shared by most other people in the home or wider surroundings. It is natural, then, that the toddler feels a growing connection to the family while simultaneously seeking to exert a little bit more independence. After all, others are demonstrating a sense of autonomy and navigating the world with confidence seems the thing to do! Yes, there will be inevitable frustrations, following the natural developmental milestones that come with toddlerhood. However, in supporting your child’s emerging sense of self as an independent being you will reap the immense benefits of letting the adventure begin in a climate of encouragement.
Choose a place in which your child will not only be enamored by the sensory experience of
being outdoors but will also be able to practice this new skill of walking
Plenty of reading material exists in respect to child-proofing the house from a safety perspective. A little time taken to assess the outside environment can result in a joyful experience for you and your little one once you become comfortable with the reality that apprehension or a tendency to be overly protective can send mixed messages to your developing toddler. Celebrate the power of independence; choose a place in which your child will not only be enamored by the sensory experience of being outdoors but will also be able to practice this new skill of walking, make sure you have enough space in which to feel safe, resist the temptation to hold hands unless absolutely necessary……..and off you go!
Your toddler’s interests are different than yours
Your toddler’s interest, first and foremost, is the act of walking itself. As the saying goes, the beauty lies in the journey and not in the destination. Consequently, your toddler will respond to the environment in his/her individual way and once you decide to accept that you will learn a lot about this young person by watching closely and foregoing your own interests, you may be enthralled by what you see. Choose a soft surface if possible, such as sand or grass, and remain in close proximity. You may see your toddler indicate an interest in a small patch of ground, which may be explored over and over. Conversely, you may witness your child set off on a longer trek than you ever imagined possible at this stage. For all children, the experience will be different. The appeal may lie in the smells, sights, or sounds of the environment. The appeal may lie in the experience of moving forward in an upright position. There may be a reason to walk in a particular direction, or a curiosity about how it feels to zig-zag back and forth. It is a magic moment for a child, and if you become distracted you may miss information about phenomena that we take for granted, but which are intensely attractive to a developing young human. You may not make it up the hill to see the sunflowers, but you may get to see the joy on your child’s face as he/she follows a butterfly in the opposite direction. Quite literally, follow the child.
Everything you say is actually absorbed and retained by your child long before he/she can mimic those words
Choose your words wisely
Too much chatter can distract your toddler from the great task at hand. By all means, maintain a level of gentle and encouraging communication with your child, but engage in meaningful conversation rather than a stream of language. A toddler is actively seeking out important words than will be useful once the milestone of speech arrives. Everything you say is actually absorbed and retained by your child long before he/she can mimic those words. With that in mind, use relevant language as you walk and be especially sensitive to introducing nouns that can describe the environment. Rather than generic terms such as “flower”, feel free to name the flowers as you see them. A toddler will appreciate this and is also interested in categorizing impressions due to a pronounced sensitivity to order at this developmental stage. Repeat words often, to reinforce their meaning and occasionally provide classification ie. “daisy…….daisy……….a daisy is a flower”. This kind of conversation is not intended as a teaching moment in the strictest sense, but rather an exposure to the relationship between real experiences and the words used to describe them.
Take the cue from your child as to when the adventure is over. In other words, allow enough time so as not to make your toddler feel rushed, which could generate frustration when it is time to leave or go inside. Conversely, respect a child’s wishes to draw a conclusion to the walk at a time deemed appropriate by them. This will end the experience on a positive note, and should enable you and your special little one to expand on the experience when it’s time for the next adventure. Keep exploring!