Hacks to keep a toddler walking without wanting to be carried

Cyd has come up with some fantastic diversions that keep her daughter from wanting to be picked up while Cyd's arms are already full:

A small but often challenging part of my day involves traveling to and from the metro stop (4 not-so-flat San Francisco blocks) with my 2-year-old.  It's not practical to take a folded stroller on the train, so we are either both on foot or I'm carrying her.  Unsurprisingly I prefer the former, especially after work when I'm likely to have groceries, etc. in addition to my work bag and her daycare bag.  I've been trying to evolve a better set of hacks for keeping her walking and avoiding the "up mommy, up mommy, please, please, PLEASE" chorus.  Here are my current favorites:

  • Sidewalks are full of shapes and letters–every cable access, plumbing marker, piece of graffiti is a potential target for "step on the next rectangle" or "where's an A"…same with colors of parked cars we pass
  • I have her "push" me up the hills
  • I suggest places (actually easily visible) like behind a street tree where she can "hide" and jump out at me
  • I let her carry (well, drag) her own bag and tell her what a big help she is

Just a few thoughts…what else works? I'd love to hear other parents' suggestions.

Counting steps often works for us — we do this while going up stairs all the time. Varying the tempo and gait (walking, then running, then hopping, then skipping), and creating mini-destination ("I'll race you to that tree!") also helps.

What your best keep-the-toddler-walking tips?

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  1. Ike says

    Great question and post! My two year old prefers walking over the stroller, but after a couple of blocks he’ll beg me to lift and carry him. For the most part, a stiff ‘no’ response often gets him walking.

    I think a bigger problem is when my son wants to run in a different direction. He may want to run to the grocery, the ice cream store, or to see a bulldozer… He’s strong willed and just saying no will often lead him into a tantrum. I haven’t found a nice or easy way to divert his attentions when this happens.

  2. Jill says

    I know a toddler who made it through a five mile hike in southern Indiana because she was so occupied looking for polar bears.

  3. hedra says

    Hunting for elephants has worked for us. Apparently they can often be spotted hiding up trees. I needed this reminder, as the twins are just at the age where this is a real issue, and I’d forgotten the elephants trick.

  4. Sara in Austin says

    Wow! What good ideas. The only one I have to contribute is for the very short walk from our car to our door, but that’s to hand Miss J. the keys and tell her she gets to open the door. (Admittedly, I have to pick her up so she can reach the lock when we get there…)

  5. Charisse (Cyd) says

    Elephants!! I love it! Mine is more of a giraffe kid, but we will totally hunt for some tonight!!

    thanks, all of you!

  6. radmama says

    Rhymes. Rhymes that incited marching and/or jumping kept us going through many rainy toddler walks.

    A.A. Milne has a few with the right cadence.
    Christopher Robin goes hoppity hoppity/hoppity hoppity hop


    John had great big waterproof boots on/John had a great big waterproof hat/john had a great big waterproof mackintosh/and that said John, is that.

  7. Sandy says

    I race with my 2 yo. Sometimes when the teachers tell me that he had a long day as well, he gets to ride piggy back–which is easier than carrying on the hip. I ask him about his day and keep him talking to divert his attention. When I go to pick him up, I purposely carry in my laptop bag as well, and hand him his daily gram “mail” and ask him to carry his own stuff. If he asks to be carried, I can usually get away with: “My hands are hurting and I got a lot of stuff to carry.” He has responded with “Hand hurting? Sorry mommy.” So I know the kids are never too young to understand.

  8. No Nym says

    Having the kid push a toy stroller or carry a toy baby works. “Oh, but if I carry you, who will push/carry the baby?”

  9. TulipGirl says

    Umbrella strollers are easy to bring where bigger ones aren’t available. I’ve been known to push the packages in the stroller and have my toddler help push the stroller (or, yeah, I’ll carry him. . .)

  10. aNDREW says

    This is not so much a hack to keep them walking but for once you reach the car and need them to stay in place while putting something away.
    I always have Austin put his hand on the car somewhere and tell him to stay there. He is very good at listening, especially once he is reminded it is dangerous to be around cars.

  11. Leela says

    Great suggestions! We’ve used “Marching” and counting to get us up some hills…1 – 2 – 3 – 4…1 – 2 – 3 – 4…effective and educational!

  12. margaret says

    One thing that worked well with my daughter when she was a toddler was a toy stroller for her doll. I think it made her feel very grown-up to push it down the street.

    The funniest part was she would mimic what I guess was my stroller behavior when I pushed her–apologizing for running into something, looking at things in the window, and my personal favorite–asking the doll if she’d like to get some coffee!

  13. MSJ says

    We sing a kids’ song that startes, “Walking, walking, walking, walking, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, hop, RUNNING, RUNNING, RUNNING…” etc. Our daughter gets really into singing and acting out the song, and quickly we have traveled a block or two.

  14. Jeff says

    Oh my! Where was this post three weeks ago? We just got back from our France vacation and during the second week of the trip, in Paris, my 2.5 year old wouldn’t/couldn’t even make it to the end of the block without whining to be picked up! This after her hiking around Provence a few days earlier! Yeah, that was frustrating. We had no stroller for her but did have her baby doll’s little pram. It did work…for 5-10 minutes, then I wound up carrying the baby’s stroller while Mom carried our daughter into Luxembourg Gardens’ playground! These are great tips – the hunting for animals would have totally worked. Will need to remember for the next time we step outdoors!Thanks.

  15. honey says

    Once heard of a parent taking her child on a walk with a pocketful of pennies. Everyso often, she would toss out a penny and the little one would run ahead and get it. Eventually she’d toss out another. The little one got to keep all the pennies she found for her bank at home.

  16. Nickel says

    We Play the “stop/Go” game which teaches her that she has to STOP as soon as I say stop which is great if a dangerous situation arises. She has to wait until I say Go. Sometimes she gets to call out go/stop which she finds hilarious.

  17. Mandy says

    Get a good carrier– I love my Yamo, which is similar to the Ergo. Or check out a mei tai. I can carry my 40 lb. 4 yr. old on my back in my Yamo and I’m a small woman.