Dangle That Carrot, Baby! (a.k.a. How to Get My Toddler to Go for a Walk)

Daddy Daughter Walking

I’m a guy that likes to go for walks.  I used to run quite a bit, but now that I’m old, creaky, and growing hair in all sorts of strange places, I walk.  It’s a good way to get out of the house, clear my head, and get some exercise.

When Audrey was born over two years ago, the frequency of my walking trips skyrocketed.  She would fall asleep in the stroller every single time back then, affording my wife some measure of respite, my daughter some much needed rest, and me some added means of losing weight.

As Audrey has grown, however, these stroller trips have fallen by the wayside.  She no longer falls asleep in the stroller, and has grown large enough to damn near capsize the thing if she’s anxious to hop out.  This leaves me in the unenviable position of having to chase a toddler while dragging a bulky stroller.  Not pleasant.

I miss my walks though.  But how do I get my precious walking in without raising my blood pressure to dangerous heights?  I’ve been working on this problem as of late, and while not ideal, I have managed to formulate a plan that makes both me and my daughter as satisfied as humanly possible.

I call it “Dangling the Carrot”.

As its name suggests, my plan for getting Audrey to walk with me involves a constant barrage of incentives.  Repeatedly bombarding her with different motivations generally keeps her moving forward, instead of running off the path into that enticing patch of poison ivy.  I have identified five such incentives that thus far seem to work each and every time.  I hope they can be of some assistance should you find yourself in my walk-hungry shoes.

Chase That Bird!

Audrey is bird crazy.  Geese, ducks, seagulls (or “eagles” as she calls them)…basically anything with wings sends her into a state of euphoria.  I therefore use this to my advantage.

AUDREY:  “I chase eagles (seagulls), Daddy!  I go get them.”

ME:  “That’s great, honey.  But I think there are more seagulls up there!”

AUDREY:  “More eagles up there?”

ME:  “I think so!”

AUDREY:  “Me go get them.”

See how that works?  Oh sure, it’s a white lie.  Maybe that makes me a terrible person.  But seeing her eagerly race forward to find more “eagles” to catch is a joy.  And it keeps us walking forward!  To me that’s worth a little harmless fib.

Find More Puddles!

Like birds, puddles are also very popular with my 2-year-old.  They’re fun to put her hands in, run the tip of a stick through, and, of course, jump in.  Like with the previous example, this incentive involves convincing your young one that there are more puddles up ahead to jump in.  But unlike chasing birds, however, your words won’t be so “fibby” here.  There probably will be puddles ahead.  There are always puddles.  And they can be caught, unlike birds.  So if you’re so fortunate that it rained the night before, take advantage.  Go for a walk and use the puddles to keep that toddler of yours walking forward and onward.

Just be sure she’s wearing her rain boots.

Great Sticks Right Up There

First birds, then puddles, now sticks.  The Holy Trinity of outdoor toddler fun.  Sticks, however, are absolutely EVERYWHERE.  You can’t avoid them and there are thousands of them lining the walking path you’re trying to follow.  So, how do you use sticks to prod your child forward?  Well, I suppose you could literally prod your child with the stick…although I don’t advise that.  Instead, you must convince your child that there are better sticks right up ahead.

AUDREY:  “Me got stick!  Me got stick!”

ME:  “Oh yeah, that’s a nice stick!”

AUDREY:  “Yeah…”

ME:  “But you know what?  I think there are even better sticks up there!”

AUDREY:  (pauses)  “Better sticks?

ME:  “Yup!”

AUDREY:  “Let’s go get them!”

Another white lie, I know.  But the thing about that is that she typically does find a better stick, at least in her mind.  There’s always a better stick.  You just have to look for them.  Up ahead.  So daddy can walk more.

Chase Daddy!

Kids love to chase things.  Cats, dogs, birds, and yes, parents.  So I use this to my advantage too.  I will simply run ahead–in a rather demonstrative, slow motion kind of way–and yell for Audrey to chase me.  And she usually will!  Huzzah.

This is especially effective if it’s sunny out.  That’s because I’ll have a shadow.  And Audrey is obsessed with shadows.  “Chase my shadow!” works so much more effectively than “Chase daddy!”  That’s because daddy is old hat.  Super cool shadows, however…

New hat.

Daddy’s Going to Get You!

Yup, this is merely reversing the above example.  Instead of encouraging Audrey to chase me, I start chasing her.  This is more of a last resort however.  This is for two simple reasons:

  1. She’ll likely fall down, and…
  2. It terrifies the crap out of her.

Okay, okay.  She doesn’t fall down that often.  It doesn’t completely scare her to death either.  She actually loves being chased.  At first.  It’s a thin line between fun and fear, and it doesn’t take much for the joy of being chased to turn into unbridled toddler horror.  And with horror comes crying.  And guilt.  But you know what you do about that?

Just tell her to go chase that bird up ahead.

See?  Works every time.


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