Explore Walks for Toddlers

DSC00701Boo is definitely an independent little girl.  She wants to do everything for herself.  The first time we gave her baby cereal, she grabbed the spoon from my hand and fed herself.  A few months later, she completely rejected spoon-feeding in favor of feeding herself finger foods.  She has been brushing her own teeth (with a follow-up brushing by mom and dad!) since we first introduced a toothbrush.  She zippers her own jacket, buckles her own car seat (chest strap), and carries her own lunch box from daycare.  I encourage this independent streak in all of our activities – to include outdoor adventures.

That’s why we started taking “Explore Walks”.  Imagine a day where you get to choose all of your activities – how you spend your time, whether you go left or right, etc.  In a world of grown-up responsibilities, this sounds fantastic!  Well, this is the idea behind Explore Walks.  I choose a location (Boo isn’t quite old enough for this task yet!) and get us there.  Boo decides what we do!

I never know what to expect and every walk is a little different!  She was a brand new walker with a dog obsession for our first Explore Walk at Mill Mountain Park, so we spent quite a bit of time following “gogs” around on their walks.  On the Wetlands Trail behind the South County Library, we spent a lot of time just observing everything – trees, plants, flowers, deer, shadows, etc.  At the Salem Rotary Park, we collected rocks and black walnuts.  You get the idea!

Toddlers are enthusiastic learners, so these Explore Walks are ideal!  Here are some of the benefits:

      1. DSC00874These walks are an awesome outlet for excess energy.  Whether your toddler chooses to run circles around a tree or just sit and absorb their surroundings, their brains are constantly being challenged.  Sometimes brain exertion is even more exhausting than physical exertion!  In other words, you will thank yourself come bedtime!
      2. Toddlers love nature.  Boo has never been grumpy because she was outside.  In fact, sometimes when she is inconsolable inside, I take her outside for a quick pick me up!  A happy toddler = a happy mom.
      3. Toddlers are used to walking on solid surfaces – floors, sidewalks, roads, etc.  Explore Walks expose them to a variety of walking surfaces – grass, sand, mulch, rock, etc.  This helps develop balance for beginning walkers.  Sometimes Boo finds a surface she particularly enjoys and she will walk back and forth over the same spot just to practice.DSC01028
      4. Toddlers touch everything, so we also have exposure to natural textures of all sorts – tree trunks, leaves, rocks, pine cones, acorns, etc.  You just can’t beat that with a texturized toy from your favorite baby outlet (Although, I think babies should be exposed to these artificial textures as well!)
      5. Toddlers taste everything, so I guess we will add germ exposure to the benefits!  Maybe you’re addicted to hand sanitizer, Chlorox wipes, and boiling everything (You are reading my blog though, so I kind of doubt it).  I’m not.  I think early and regular exposure to a variety of germs helps to boost her immune system.  {Side note: I am just now realizing how many times I use the word “variety” – must start using a thesaurus!}
      6. Freedom to make all the choices!  Seriously – what a gift!

These don’t have to be fancy locales or epic adventures.  All three of the aforementioned parks are within 20 minutes of my house!  The key is to focus on a diverse (ahem…variety!) collection of locations to keep things interesting and boost exposure of the senses!

And for fun – a clip of Boo’s first Explore Walk at about 13 months!  Note the flying bird she points out…and the not-so-graceful tumble at the end 🙂

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