Stepping out into the neighbourhood can be an exhilarating and exciting learning experience for a young child.
Pushing a baby or small toddler around your locality in a pram or stroller, can be great exercise for both parents and carers, and if the child is old enough to walk independently, it’s fun to share the world together.
Thinking of leisurely walks may make you think of a quiet country road or an attractive public space, but inner-suburban streets and city locations have much to interest children of all ages.
Wear appropriate clothing, pack sunscreen or umbrellas, drinks and snacks, binoculars, camera and a mobile for emergencies.
Even though babies and toddlers may be too young to physically walk the neighbourhood, they will have the opportunity to enjoy the outing even more (depending on the weather) if they’re lifted out of the stroller, carried for a short way, or laid on a blanket on the ground. Things can look entirely different from another angle and the experience helps to give them a new perspective of their world.
Ponds, in particular, are often a great attraction for a very young child. Quacking, honking, swimming and diving provide much to look at and listen to, and why ducks have feathers is an interesting topic for children old enough to talk. Likewise, is talking about the touch, scent, colour and shape of flowers, grass and leaves.
Parks are usually full of interest, with dogs, children, play equipment, or sometimes a sculpture or water feature. Trees and shrubs provide shade, colour, texture, movement, sound and smell. At this age everything is new and interesting.
For toddlers of two to three years, build on exploration and investigation:
Preschoolers are much more likely to want to walk the whole route with you, rather than be pushed in a stroller. How far your child can walk depends on their general health, but walking, observing and discussing also encourages imagination and independence.
Walking can also be interspersed with short bursts of skipping, hopping, running (backwards and forwards), doing a little dance or jumping. By the time a child is school age, they should be able to walk for up to half an hour.
Older children are usually keen to find out about their environment:
When you finally make it home, you can continue the learning by encouraging your child to draw some of the buildings, features, animals or people they may have seen.
Perhaps they collected some autumn leaves, or a pretty petal, or you took a photo of them playing with the ducks by the pond.
An ongoing walk scrapbook can be a great incentive to get to know the neighbourhood even better!