Encouraging your child to walk

Over the past ten months of our travels, Michael and I have fallen into a bad habit. We try to encourage Marlow to walk wherever we go, but she never gets far before asking (and then demanding…) to be carried. She has become so spoiled having both her parents (and big brothers!) with her every day, as inevitably there is always someone willing to carry her for a bit. She ends up like this…

Michael carrying Marlow

or like this…

Courtney carrying Marlow

or even like this…

quin carrying marlow

This girl has got it good, and you can tell from the look on her face that she knows exactly what she’s doing! : )

But now we’ve gotten ourselves into a bit of a trap. We’re heading to Italy tomorrow where we will spend the next five weeks walking up and down hundreds of steps every day, and the last thing we want to do is to carry our heavy 3-year-old everywhere we go. So I need to have some tricks up my sleeve for encouraging her to walk. I know the promise of gelato will be good incentive for her to walk… but you can’t dangle that carrot all the time.

Marlow and umbrella Marlow walking

A couple months ago while we were in Japan I realised that if I gave Marlow her own umbrella to carry, she would walk happily without complaining, which proved that she will walk if distracted – it’s all about getting her to forget she’s walking.

Later, on the Babyccino Instagram feed, we asked our followers to share their tips for encouraging their kids to walk, and people left some great comments.  I thought it’d be helpful to share the tips here and continue to ask readers to come up with more. Here are the tips people have shared so far:

  • Bring the dog – let them help hold the leash
  • Count how many red cars you go past (or yellow, or green…!)
  • Play ‘I spy…’ as you walk
  • A kid’s digital camera encourages kids to walk and look for things to photograph
  • Scooters!
  • Bikes!
  • Ask big siblings to help push their little sibling in the buggy
  • Let them bring a toy buggy and pretend to push around their own baby

Please share if you have any other tips. I’d love to hear!

Courtney x


Comments (26)

June 14, 2016

Have another baby?! 😜

Courtney in London
June 14, 2016

Haha! I love that!!!! 🙂
It is true that older kids get ‘bumped’ once new babies are born. All of our other children had to transition out of our bed when a new baby arrived… but since no new baby arrived after Marlow, she’s never been kicked out of the bed! It’s the same with carrying her. I realised the other day that when our eldest was her age, he had two younger siblings! There was no way he was being carried around town!! xx

June 14, 2016

Five weeks in Italy – how wonderful! Will you hook up with Lauren and her lovely family? Our four year young is a little like M – quite cunning in the way he avoids walking very far. We get him to count cracks in the pavement (even jumping on them!), swing his yoyo (but he can get carried away with swinging it in all directions) and to pretend his hand has been superglued by magic to his seven year old sister’s. The things we do!

Courtney in London
June 14, 2016

Hi Petra,
Haha! I love all your tricks.
And yes, we’re excited to see Lauren and Michael and their two girls in Positano! xx

June 14, 2016

My four year old has always wanted to be carried but she’s got to a weight where it’s difficult to carry her all day. It’s hard to enjoy the day when you are effectively doing a tough workout all day. But coming from a gentle parenting child-led perspective my feeling is that it’s an inherent need which will suddenly disappear and they will never want to be carried again. Very attached children ultimately become very independent when it’s child-led.

With my daughter I feel being carried is part of her love language in that it’s part of her way of feeling loved and protected when she is being carried. It could also be a proprioception issue in terms of the information the joints are receiving during walking. For example, if there is any hypermobility, there might be a subtle unconscious anxiety when walking. You’ll never see a pre-teen being carried so no doubt it’s something each child grows out of at some point.

Although it’s tough to carry my daughter and at times I physically can’t because of carrying other things, I do feel it’s a need she still has. It offers her security and physical contact. For the times when I just can’t carry her we use the scooter (although this does backfire and I have to carry her and the scooter). I don’t have any solutions other than to realise that it’s about a child communicating a need and it’s a phase that will end. That’s what I tell myself when I feel like running a marathon would be easier!

Courtney in London
June 14, 2016

Hi Jess,
Thanks for taking the time to write this thoughtful comment. I agree with you that it’s just a phase and that all our children will eventually walk (and I’m sure we’ll miss these days of carrying children around everywhere). But… it’s also not great for our backs to carry her, especially for such long distances. This week we got a hand-me-down scooter from friends and it has really helped. She’s not asked to be carried once this week.
Anyway, thanks again for your comment. x

June 15, 2016

It is just a phase…but be careful because it can last! I can remember my brother and father carrying me when I was 7!! With that in mind, when my daughters ask, I just explain I physically can’t, they are too heavy and are hurting me… Doesn’t always go down well but after a little bit of grumbling they go on…but to be entirely honest I still have a baby so my own carrying needs are fulfilled, I might not be so strict with my last baby 🙂

June 14, 2016

We had the same problem with our son, now 5 and still not a great walker. I agree it is all about incentive and distraction. Now he has started school, he will walk quite long distances on trips or to the library with his class and not dare complain 😉
My mum has a good trick though. She tells him he can run to the next or second etc. lamp post. Strangely, it works. Timing on a phone is an extra trick. “How quickly can you …. ?” Tapping into their competitive spirit! Or “Can you run to the next red car?” We also count door numbers; also great for learning 2 x table, odd/even numbers and big numbers.

June 14, 2016

My now 5 year old would complain a lot at 3 and as I was pregnant I really had to phase the carrying out. I tried to replace it with cuddles at other times (and my husband still carried her for awhile) and by the time she was 4 it was a phase that had mostly passed. It also helped that we did lots of big “explore” outings in our neighbourhood where she could choose where to go and set the pace. If you are trying to get somewhere on an adult’s schedule, I think a scooter or loopfiets (balance bike) is easier for them to keep up with.

June 14, 2016

I also feel that my 3 year old does not walk when he is bored or tired or having a bad moment/day. So I help out, or compromise (depending on what else I am carrying): i’ll carry you a bit, you walk a bit, i’ll carry you up to/after the red car. He is a lightweight (14K) so it’s not too difficult to still use the manduca – on the back though! And he likes his cuddles there too, resting his head etc. I also know having an older child that I will soon miss these moments and try to cherish his needs. But it’s fine balance between their needs and yours.

Annie from Brimful
June 14, 2016

Gosh – what a great list! I cave pretty easily when one of the younger two wants to be carried – often one in my arms and one in Dustin’s. I tell myself it’s giving my biceps a extra bit of strength training 😂. Maybe Marlow will be motivated to walk if she has a bit of chalk to scribble the wall or ground as you climb up and up. But uh – that might make it a very SLOW trek. Ooo – maybe a magnifying glass would work! ❤️❤️❤️

June 14, 2016

I can second the camera trick! My recently turned 4 year old has inherited our old digital point and shoot, and she loves to walk around taking pictures. It’s also fun and interesting to see the world through her eyes. I’m planning on buying a scrapbook and some supplies for her soon so we can print out some of her pictures and she can start a scrapbook of her memories.

June 14, 2016

Often on holiday you can buy push along stick toys with jingle-balls in them. They are so good at making kids walk because they love the (annoying!!) sound which is made when it is pushed!

June 14, 2016

arghhhhhhh she is the most beautiful child!!!!!!!!

kelly rae
June 14, 2016

it’s already on your list but we used a scooter alot when she was inbetween needing her stroller and being able to walk a long ways. But really it’s about practice because now she can walk and walk and walk and she’s not even four yet.

June 14, 2016

Love the umbrella trick and the magic superglue 😉

Like Jess, I also think some children have the need to be carried because they want to be close – same as coming into the parent’s bed during the night.

We did a hiking tour in Switzerland a two years ago, where we had to walk a lot everyday and also uphill for hours. So I ordered a Tula Toddler Carrier – a special toddler carrier, which is the same system as a Manduca / Ergobaby, but bigger and much more comfortable for both the toddler and the one who carries. My husband had to carry our four year old son for three hours straight (because he fell asleep!). The trip wouldn’t have been possible without this carrier.

You could also bring some chalk and let her mark the steps on your way down to the beach, so she can search them on her way back home…

June 14, 2016

I love children’s crearivity, for this reason I came up with a game: Imagine who lives behind the door we are passing by. Children have lot of stories to tell. For example if they found a big door they imagine that there is a giant inside the house, or when they found smaller doors they tell stories about small grannies who cook the best cakes of the world. It is so funny to listen to their stories and it is think that a telling them a famous story or reading them a book is more important than letting them create new ones.

June 14, 2016

We have always been a carrying family, we used slings a lot but our pram/pushchair has not had a lot of use, I like to keep them close, I feel secure that they are safe and happy and I hope they feel the same. A word of warning though my third daughter did constantly say her legs hurt/were tired etc so we would pick her up, it turned out she was rolling her feet and causing actual leg pain, an insole (specific to her need) has corrected the problem, from the first day of having them we noticed she would walk without a single complaint. See what happens with our fourth baby, he already loves his baby sling…!

June 15, 2016

My kids play the 100 game with car plates (who can find one that sums up 100!) They also play this invented “video game” with points and traps with all sorts of lids on the pavement: they have to step/prevent form stepping on it. This, of course, has all kinds of sounds attached.
Singing also helps, we sing all the time. Beattles to Father John Misty fans.
There’s also the collecting textures activity (with a piece of paper and a pencil all over those pavement lids) but that will take a while!
Here in Portugal we have black&white pavements so we also play the “only in the black” game. We also have a lot of steps here so we just count them and feel like heros at the end. Maybe it would be fun to get a pedometer.
When we travel we try to point out all the different things to se but sometimes, of course, we have just have to get them to walk beacuse we say so!

June 15, 2016

Our middle kiddie has just turned one and we have a double tank of a pram that all 3 (aged 6, 4 and 21 months) find a pew or a perch on. The middle recently decided she liked the shopping bag underneath the pram and recently fell asleep in it. So no, I have no tips, especially as the six year old still hops in or uses the buggy board…but we are averaging 34°C in Singapore so I’m blaming the heat 🙂

June 15, 2016

Sorry that should say the middle has turned four!

June 15, 2016

In Italy street vendors sell sun umbrellas – they’re a good idea on a hot day.

June 15, 2016

Oo! You could buy one of those step counters so walking becomes a game. It works amazingly well if your child (or anyone) is even the slightest bit competitive 😉

June 16, 2016

Jump rope! My family recently traveled to France for a week and I was very concerned about this exact issue with my tiny 6 year old who is used to hitching rides. BUT! She packed her jump rope in her little back pack. She was not an experienced jump roper but really wanted to practice. She ended up jumping rope for miles around Paris. It was a great thing to whip out while waiting for the train, while “resting” in a park, while her parents were consulting the map or taking photos or trying to have a conversation! We ended up searching for a jump rope for my older son for the sake of family peace. I love that we have a whole series of photos with my kids jumping rope around Paris. I know that won’t happen on every family trip of ours, so it was sweet to enjoy it while it lasted.
Side note: the jump rope got flagged by TSA on one of our domestic flights in the US. They took her backpack and dismantled the whole thing and had a good laugh that it was “just a jump rope”!
PS my kids and I LOVE watching that Marlow surfing video that you posted on Instagram so much. It brings such a smile to our faces!

June 20, 2016

These are all fab tips! I have a 4-year old who asks to be carried still. She is really tall and heavy for her age so it’s a struggle and at times, I’d rather carry my 18-month old and let her ride in the buggy. If I really can’t and want her to walk, ive found making up an imaginary game where she’s riding a horse or a unicorn works a treat! We’ve had great fun on walks with this. Sometimes she asks me to gallop along side her, or the Unicorn needs to eat some leaves or have a poop (Rainbow Poop!). It always gets her imagination going! 🦄

June 23, 2016

I wander if being carried is Marlows way of “keeping close” to her family while in unfamiliar territory?! It might just be her thing while you are all on the road, & something that quickly disappears. It must be so hard to resist that face!! I don’t want your adventures to stop! It’s been fantastic travelling along with you!

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