Tag Archives: gross motor activity

The compromise

More than a decade ago I wrote my first post about walking with children – since then I’ve written many more posts about the subject – search ‘walking’ or ‘hiking’ in my search bar if you want to read some of them.

We go on some very long walks though distance and time are not always relative as other factors like snack breaks, exploring, playing games and destinations like the library or store may affect the length of time but not the distance. Some of our walks are great distances – our longest has been about 10 kilometers – though these long distance walks require advance planning so they can’t be spontaneous when the children ask.

I’ve received stunned responses like “Why do you make them walk so far?” and I have to explain that I don’t ‘make’ them – I ‘let’ them. Most of the time it is the children choose the destination and/or the route. We go on a walk everyday as part of our daily routine. As soon as babies take their first steps I let them walk – they become our pace setters. At first it may just be out the front door and around the short block to the back yard. Once they become more confident we add some more distance.

Back in 2012 I wrote about adapting our walks to accommodate the abilities of children at various stages of development. Being able to understand/accept the needs of the younger children is a learning experience for the older children too. I am not opposed to carrying or putting a baby in a stroller when they don’t want to walk, however, I am opposed to assuming they can’t walk as far as the older children when given the opportunity. Please don’t underestimate their abilities!

I have had a 19 month old child that walked nearly 9 km in under 4 hours – I had the stroller available if he wanted to use it but he adamantly insisted on walking until we were almost all the way back (and it was approaching nap time). Last summer on our longest/farthest (4.5 hour 10 km) walk, every time we stopped for water/snack breaks I was the only one who chose to ‘rest’ – the children (aged 18 months-8 years) always wanted to run around and played tag instead.

Over the years there have been a few children here who were reluctant to walk anywhere – honestly most were school-age who came here only briefly and had never been required to nor given the opportunity to walk anywhere – they also struggled with the complete lack of screen time options here. With the little ones often all they need is a chance to choose their walking partner, or the destination, or even just carry a stick or leaf to make walking an enjoyable activity.

Winter tends to be the biggest obstacle that limits the distance of our walks. Even experienced walkers sometimes struggle with winter conditions. Slippery ice, deep snow, cold wind gusts and bulky winter clothing can be frustrating so we don’t often go on very long winter walks.

However, even in winter we do play outside every day so at minimum we walk around the short block from the front entrance to the back yard. The side yard and back entrance are not childcare areas and that makes them more difficult routes than the familiar walk around the block.

This past summer/fall was one of the few years that it wasn’t the weather that made walking difficult. Baby One did not like to take more than about 10, very slow, consecutive steps without being picked up and carried – but not for more than a minute before demanding to be given the opportunity to take a few more independent steps. They did like long stroller rides and that was fine until Baby Two – an accomplished hiker – decided it was not fair that Baby One got to ride. *sigh*

I do have two little strollers but I can’t push both of them at the same time or push one while carrying a baby. Some of the school-age don’t mind pushing a stroller but when they are in school they are not available to help. Besides, if the older children do not enjoy the additional responsibility it could ultimately lessen their desire to walk and we don’t want that.

I have discovered that often it is easier/quicker/better to just leave the stroller(s) and take the chance that I may have to carry TWO babies if they both decide to quit walking. Someone suggested I should get a double stroller but I am stubborn, haven’t needed a double stroller in 23 years – not going to concede defeat now. Besides, the gym is closed and I need a workout.

The short block hike from the front door to the back yard is my physical limit for carrying two babies – but with the addition of slippery snowsuits it is extremely difficult. The three older preschoolers have threatened to mutiny if we have to walk super slow baby speed – all the time. They have also lamented that they miss the longer walks.

So, I compromised and bought a sled – the heavy duty cargo kind with high sides. The babies love it. The three older ones have been so excited about not being limited by baby steps they have demanded some longer walks. In fact, with all their pent up energy their 1-2 km winter (actually fall with snow) ‘walks’ are really runs. Great – more non-gym workouts for me to keep up with energetic preschool pace-setters while pulling babies in the sled.

Sadly, most of our early snow has melted away so we are back to walking slow again until we get some more snow for the sled. Interestingly though, Baby Two has decided they don’t need to be carried any more so we’ve managed to take a couple slightly longer walks without the sled and only one baby to carry.

Maybe I didn’t need to compromise after all – I just needed to wait a little bit longer for this particular group to find a balance that works for all of them – together. I bet by Spring even Baby One will be itching to walk independently on a long walk too – they just need a little more confidence and the opportunity to discover how fun it can be.

Summer 2017

Fall is definitely on its way – today is cool, wet, and dreary.  It has been a wonderful summer.  There were many things I meant to write about but never did – probably because I was playing outside.  Today I’m huddled in front of my computer, cat sleeping on my lap, waiting for one load of laundry to finish so I can start another.  Seems like the perfect time to write a quick summer recap.

In the yard we built a new composter and fire pit and added a gazing ball (lovely good-bye gift).

17-09-sum01

We had some old pieces of cribbing that I let the children paint;

17-09-sum03

They now arrange the pieces in various configurations for follow the leader games and other gross motor activities;

17-09-sum04

Sometimes they make teeter totters but so far I haven’t managed to get a picture of them doing that.  They often make benches too – even though we have eight ‘real’ benches in the yard they seem to like theirs better;

17-09-sum05

We went on a long (9 km) hike to the Forks and back.

17-09-sum06

Watching the boats, ducks, and geese was great but couldn’t beat this;

17-09-sum07

Standing on the path under the train bridge watching/listening to the train above;

17-09-sum08

That was pretty amazing.

With colder weather approaching I’ve turned my focus toward our somewhat neglected indoor play space.  Plans have been made and work will begin soon.  By Thanksgiving we should have a new – tiny house inspired – loft.  So excited!

Indoor Activity

Walk!

I am certain that if I recorded all the things I say to the children in a day and then tallied up how often I repeat phrases ‘walk’ would top the list.  A distant second would be ‘stop’ followed closely by ‘down’.  All my most common instructions pertain to redirecting activity level.

The list would of course be far different if I made separate lists for ‘outdoor’ phrases and ‘indoor’ phrases.  Only when we are indoors is there a need to restrict the children’s running, jumping and climbing.  It is not the activity that is wrong – it is the activity within a small, confined space with many other people.

Yet, children need to engage in gross motor activities.  During our long cold winters we do go outside every day but the length of time we spend outside is often not enough for the children to release all their pent up energy.  So, I try to provide alternate gross motor activities that are more appropriate for indoors.

When I removed the loft stairs the music area became larger – more room for dancing 🙂 Dancing is one of the children’s favourite forms of indoor active play and something they often initiate.  There are also some other features I incorporated in the room to encourage movement;

15-02-indoor00The step up to the nature area is a natural ‘speed bump’ and a great place to practice stepping – or jumping – up and down, on and off.  The pipes are mounted high at the entrance to the block area to encourage stretching to drop toys through the pipes and bending to enter the block area.  We do more bending and stretching by practicing yoga poses – another favourite activity that the children will often initiate.

Crawling is also encouraged – it is such a wonderful full body gross motor activity. It is generally much slower than other types of movement and because the children are down on the floor falling is rarely an issue.  The children will often crawl during dramatic play activities when they pretend to be various animals.  Sometimes we set up the tents and tunnels to promote even more crawling;

15-02-indoor02

Recently we’ve had the spinners out in the playroom.  These require an impressive amount of balance to remain upright as you stand and spin.  The younger children always use the spinners near a wall or shelf so they have something to hang on to as they spin in circles;

15-02-indoor01

Currently we have the foam hop scotch puzzle on the floor. The squares provide boundaries for hopping or jumping – the difference between hopping and jumping is described here.  Using the squares to define the hopping area provides a ‘safe’ zone for those who are not engaging in the activity – they can walk around the mat to avoid being involved in a collision.

15-02-indoors03

I may have to restrict some types of active play indoors because I don’t have an appropriate gym space but that doesn’t mean I have to eliminate it completely.  We still much prefer to be outdoors but when we’re stuck indoors we don’t have to remain sedentary.

Baby Steps

I know the phrase…“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”  I firmly believe that the children and I should be outside every day in all types of weather.  However, yesterday was one of those difficult days.

Sun, rain, snow, and slush.  Mother Nature just couldn’t make up her mind.  The worst part though was the temperature – not bitterly cold but definitely chilly.  A snow suit would have been far too warm but fall jackets were not really warm enough especially when they got wet.

It’s days like that when I take the children for a walk.  Certainly they would prefer to play in the yard but invariably at least one of them would roll around on the ground and get soaked and we would all have to come inside.  So, we walk.  We go outside and we keep moving.

Now, I face another obstacle – two toddlers.  Both the one-year-olds are capable of hiking around the block when they’re holding my hand.  The problem is that the older preschoolers find the toddler pace very slow.  With the toddlers tiny strides it takes about 40 minutes for us to get around the block – and the older children spend about 30 of those minutes just waiting for the toddlers and I  to catch up.

Some people might put the toddlers in a stroller or a wagon and head out for a longer walk – but I won’t.  We’re going for a walk, not a ride. Our outdoor time is the perfect opportunity for gross motor activities for all of us including the toddlers.

So, I started a game.  I instructed the older children to run ahead four sidewalk squares and turn around and run back to me.  It took a few tries for them to get the hang of it – we discovered that it was easier if they counted ‘lines’ (sidewalk cracks) instead of squares.

Then I increased the goal to ‘six lines’ ahead and then back to us.  The older children stomped on each line as they counted to six and then turned around and ran back.  Then they tried jumping from one line to the next before running back.  Sometimes they bent down and touched the line with their hands – so much exercise 🙂

One of the children asked if they could do ten squares next but first we tried just eight.  We all counted together as they passed each line before turning around to run back.  They came up with some interesting challenges like spinning around on each line.

Just past the half way point walk we increased the distance to ten sidewalk squares but only one of the preschoolers was still playing.  The other one was walking slowly with me and the toddlers – ‘too tired’ to keep playing the game.

One square city block on a cold and wet day and plenty of gross motor activity.