There’s nothing like a walk around the block with your baby. Fresh after the pregnancy, it’s a great way for moms to get back into shape and let their little ones see some of the world around them, and as kids get older, the exercise does them good, too.
But even when you’re staying close to home, baby safety needs to come first. It’s easy to keep your eye on an infant in their stroller, but it gets immensely trickier with toddlers – they’re old enough to realize they’re independent from you and want to go exploring, but they don’t know that running off alone makes it harder for their parents to keep up and find them again. Here are some tips for enjoying time out of the house and staying safe in the neighborhood.
*NEVER leave the stroller unattended!
*If you prefer baby wearing to using a stroller, make sure the carrier you use is appropriate to your child. Newborns who can’t hold their heads up properly yet should not be worn in a baby carrier that doesn’t have sturdy neck support. Whether you’re using a stroller or a carrier, check your equipment for damage before you get started.
*Rear-facing strollers make it easier to keep an eye on your little one as you move around.
*Make sure baby is comfortable, but also that any blankets or toys in the stroller with them aren’t causing a choking or suffocation hazard.
*Pay attention to the world around you! The weather can have a big impact on your exercise – dress yourself and your little one appropriately for the temperature, wear sturdy shoes, watch out for slippery spots in cold weather, and remember to keep baby safe from the sun’s harmful effects.
*Always keep an eye on traffic and how you move around it. Watch out for people opening their car doors into the sidewalk’s path, and NEVER push the stroller out into the road at an intersection while waiting to cross. Keep the stroller by your side instead, and resume pushing it in front of you when you have the walk signal.
*Even if you don’t intend to go far from the house, take your cell phone, just in case.
*NEVER let your toddlers play outside unsupervised!
*Teach your children what you want them to do on a walk before you go out. If they know going in that you expect them to stay with you, hold hands when crossing the street, etc., they’re more likely to behave (though you may have to repeat it a few times).
*Demonstrate road safety rules, such as looking both ways, making eye contact with drivers, and waiting for the crossing signal – children learn by copying, so set a good example! Whenever possible, walk between your child and approaching traffic.
*Don’t just say “Stop!” if your little one takes off without warning. Say exactly what you want them to stop, or where they need to stay. If your child keeps misbehaving, don’t be afraid to confine them to their stroller or just go home – but don’t forget to explain later what they did wrong.
*If you’re pulling your child along on a walk in a wagon, check your equipment before you leave to make sure it isn’t broken, and make sure everyone riding along stays seated. If your little one has a big wheel or a similar toy, don’t let them get too far away from you.
*Don’t be afraid to consider a child harness, such as the Yochi Yochi. Harnesses can make it easier to keep your child within reach in crowded areas, and allow you to help faster if your little one falls over.
*Make your walks and errands fun! Sing a song, do silly steps, encourage your children to copy you or join in – it’ll hold their interest and make them less likely to wander off, and if they try to do so anyway, you can bring the game right back into their path.
*Plan for your child’s energy levels. They may seem boundless, but toddlers can be easily worn out by a walk that’s nothing on an adult-sized body – keep to a short route, and don’t be surprised if you have to carry them home.
*Dress your child in bright colors to make them easier to find.
*Again, don’t forget to check the weather before you get started! If rain interrupting your day is a possibility, know where you can take shelter from a storm quickly. Dress your child appropriately for the heat or cold, including sunscreen.