The other night, my son woke up screaming at about 10:30 pm. Now, sleep training and crying it out are a whole other matter that I will get into later. Suffice it to say we fall into an in-between camp and pay close attention to what his crying sounds like. We always go comfort him when it is his panic or pain cry. This was his panic cry, which we have come to guess coincides with nightmares (it is very distinct), so I went. He put his arms around my neck and sighed and started speaking rapid baby to me.
I wasn’t smart enough to teach him sign language early on, so our communication consists mostly of the word da (with various emphasis and intonations) and lots of pointing and hand gestures. This usually works well enough but exhausted charades in the dark was a bit too much for both of us. He was sobbing again before I realized that what he wanted was not his stuffed animal, or a story, or a bottle . . . he just wanted to go outside.
I tried to explain to him that it was dark and that it was night time but he just pointed at the window and cried. It was at that moment that his Daddy came in and realized what it was he wanted. Before I knew it, he was being wrapped in a big blanket and Nick was taking him out the door. The three of us ended up on a short walk around the block in our pajamas.
Being outdoors has long been a source of comfort for him and he calmed down significantly on our short nighttime adventure. When we got home, he gave us each a hug and went right back to sleep.
My point is, my toddler loves being outdoors. I am incredibly grateful that the thought of going outside brings him comfort and happiness because I am the same way. This being said, we have been experimenting with safe activities that allow us both to be outside to get exercise and fresh air.
I am blessed to live in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and we take advantage of that gift at every opportunity. I wrote a post about what I learned hiking with my baby and most of it still applies to a toddler. But let me tell you, hiking with a toddler is so much more fun. I love watching his eyes light up when he sees new places and things. He loves to throw rocks in the water, watch animals, collect sticks, and touch trees.
In order to help us both get our exercise and outside time, I hike for a mile or two then let him out of the carrier to explore. The key to a successful toddler hike (in my mind) is three-fold. I get exercise, he gets exercise, we both have fun.
Notice, I didn’t say we make it a specific destination. Pinning your hopes of waterfall grandeur on a toddler is not wise. Hike for the journey, not the destination.
Before I got pregnant, I used to ride my bike all over. However, after months of puking and no exercise, I had to give it up for a bit. Then I had the baby and surprise . . . babies can’t ride bikes or even sit in bike trailers right away. Then it was winter. So, now that he is 14 months old we are starting our rides.
He loves feeling the breeze and watching the nature right outside of the trailer and he keeps himself busy eating snacks and reading books while I ride. Each time we go, I try to make the halfway point a park. That way he can get out and run around and play before heading back. Once again, we both get exercise and enjoy the outing.
I know, pretty basic, but sometimes it is all we have time for. Hiking and biking both require a certain amount of preparation and a larger time commitment. Walking just requires some tennis shoes and the stroller. We like to go early (by early I mean before noon) when it isn’t too hot. I try to walk all of the blocks near my house so that we are never too far from home should an emergency arise.
I let him get his exercise either at the park as our halfway point while I stretch. Or in our backyard when we get home.
My son loves our yard and will run through our juniper trees with his rake for hours while I get everything weeded and cut. If you are thinking to yourself that gardening does not count as a workout, then you are not doing nearly as many squats as you could be while weeding. I just figure since I am already bending over to pull weeds, I might as well do squats and stretches. Gardening often leaves me more sore than any of the other activities.
Okay, here me out. This, like gardening, is not a workout in the traditional sense of the word. But it can definitely provide some exercise. When I stop worrying about being an adult and play with my son (be it at a park, in our yard, on the hike, in the garden, in the basement, whatever,) I find I am exhausted.
Playing with a one-year-old requires lots of running and crawling and lifting and stretching. A good half hour session of free play burns calories and builds relationships.
How do you exercise with your toddler?