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May 04, 2021

Montessori Toddler Activity - Going for A Walk

We have a construction site close to our house this summer. The city is tearing up some streets and one very close to us happens to be on the schedule. But, they started several blocks away from where we live. Theodore knows about the construction and is pretty happy to say the least. A few days ago, we went outside to play. I assumed we would stay in our yard, but decided I would follow Teddy's lead. 

At 19-months, Teddy was determined to find the trucks at the construction site. I quietly followed him and we ended up walking many many blocks for over an hour. I never once picked him up. He didn't complain or whine. We had a genuinely wonderful time. 

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Maria Montessori never intended for children to be inside working at little tables from things on a shelf their entire day. No, she expected that. children would have access to the indoors and the outdoors and would be able to follow their own natural drive when it comes to being outdoors. Her environments allowed for a sort of free flow between inside and out, whenever that was possible. 

But, isn't a walk just a regular activity? What makes a walk a Montessori activity? For me, it's the motivation behind the walk. It's a question of who is leading the walk and for what purpose. A story Maria Montessori tells in her book The Discovery of the Child comes to mind. She says:

"I once knew a couple who had a child barely two years old. Wishing to go to a distant beach they tried to take turns caring him in their arms, but the attempt was too tiring. The child, however, then enthusiastically made the trip by himself and repeated the excursion every day. Instead of caring him in their arms, his parents made the sacrifice of walking more slowly and of halting whenever the child stopped to gather a small flower or saw a patient little donkey grazing in a meadow and sat down, thoughtful and serious, to pass a moment with this humble and privileged creature. Instead of carrying their child, these parents solve their problem by following him." (p.69-70)

So practically, how do we put this into practice? Here are some tips for walking with toddlers:
  • Ditch the container. These aren't the walks for strollers, or baby wearing. Even bringing those things can make it tempting to use them. 
  • Pick your timing. Don't attempt this type of walk if you're busy, only have a few minutes, or have a destination that you have to be at by a certain time. Instead pick times where you can be relaxed, free to wander, or can arrive at anytime. 
  • Loose the Agenda. While sometimes it's necessary to plan a walk to a specific destination ("Let's walk to the grocery." or "Let's walk to the park to meet our friend.") But sometimes just walk without purpose, or pressure to make it to one specific thing. 
  • Follow them, literally. Where it is safe, I like to hang back by a foot or two so that Teddy can really take the lead. He can decide where to turn, and when to stop. It also helps me to walk at his pace. 
  • Slow way down. Those little legs have their own pace and we need to respect it. 
  • Take in the details. Stop to look at the ant hill. Listen and follow the little bird. Allow your toddler to point out every flower (or in our case construction flag.) Even if it feels weird to sit in one spot looking for awhile, try to allow it until your child is done. 
  • Allow for repetition. One day Teddy and I simply crossed the street for an hour straight. Over and over again until he felt satisfied. Try to allow your child the ability to do something over if they want. Do they want to walk up and down one little hill? Jump into one little puddle? Let it happen. 
  • Work in Maximum Effort. Toddlers need and love to push things to the max. For Teddy right now, it means often walking through the long grass in a neighbor's yard, or carrying a big stick as he walks. But look for ways that your child is trying to exert maximum effort and allow it. Maybe it's running ahead and then back to you. Maybe it's walking off trail. Maybe it's carrying a bucket. Or maybe it's just a really far walk. 
Montessori tips for walking with a 1-year-old. This fun, easy activity is perfect for getting outside with your toddler.

I can't wait to get out and take Teddy for another walk today. To really follow him and see where he leads. I hope you'll do the same! 

Do you enjoy toddler-led Montessori walks? 

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