Parenting with Joanne
By the time a young child is 15 months old, he or she, in most cases has acquired the coordination needed for the all too exciting milestone of ‘walking without support’. Yet, it almost intrigues me to observe that one too many Sri Lankans cannot seem to let go of the ‘habit’ of carrying their young, well past this age.
While the reasons behind this continued habit may well be understandable, I wish to draw your attention to a few reasons why we perhaps find it hard to ‘allow’ our children to walk and why we should actually encourage more walking of their own, particularly from ages 15 months to 3 years.
- Fear of falling
This is probably the most common fear that a parent with a ‘just started walking’ toddler would experience. When you watch your toddler wobble his way to places in and around your own home, the thought of letting him practice these skills out in the open can be rather daring to be exact. This isn’t to say that we don’t occasionally enjoy a stroll in the park and beach with our young ones, but all the while ensuring that busy traffic is out of the way and that everyday people on the road are kept at bay.
- Easier option
I’ve watched mothers trying to persuade their young ones to walk in the same direction that they themselves would need to be going when running errands. Then, there are those who pick up their children as last resort seemingly oblivious to the protesting kicking and the screaming of their young. Many a times, even everyday household activities like, cooking and washing clothes, can be done better while carrying your child, without the distraction of having to ensure the safety of him while ‘walking’ around the house.
- Fear of being overlooked
This, in Sri Lanka, personally is to me the most challenging part of allowing my three year old to explore surroundings on foot when I take him out to places like restaurants, banks, schools etc. Adults, more often than other children seem to have eye sight only at a level above the waist of another grown up. And most often this, tendency makes them almost unaware of a tiny person who is sharing their same experience in that atmosphere. This essentially leads to the child being overlooked at times and bumped on many other times.
Having seen some of the most common reasons why we as parents may be rather uncomfortable with the thought of our toddlers ‘walking’, lets now take a look at how ‘walking’ at this age helps with their own development.
4. Reduces the fear to explore
We need to understand that for a child of that age, much is conveyed by what we do than what we actually say. When we carry our children into new environments, we are essentially telling them that we don’t trust them to be alright on their own. We may well be creating or adding to the natural fear of strange places that children have at this age.
On the other hand, when we let them walk into a building or a new place, while holding our hands for support and guidance, they feel more at liberty to explore. By exploring on their own, they learn in more ways than if we were to carry them into such experiences.
5. Encourages responsibility
When you carry your child into a place or pick him too often in new surroundings, he may feel that he isn’t responsible for what happens to him when he is outside. This can result in him, not responding to people when they address him or not taking a keener interest in his surroundings.
However, a child who is allowed to walk, although may resist to enter certain places at certain occasions, still feels that he is responsible for his own actions and will eventually learn to own this responsibility well.
6. Helps build strength in the muscles
For those of us who wish our children to be good athletes when they are older, this may probably be the most important reason. The legs of a toddler between ages 15 months and 4 years reaches optimum strength and formation only if walking is practiced well enough each day. The muscles that can be developed at this age are almost always only developed to a maximum at this age alone.
So, the next time, you bend down to pick up your toddler, think again!
Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator
For any queries please email Joanne on firstname.lastname@example.org