I Bribed My 4-Year-Old to Stop Using a Stroller

Long ago, when I was a younger, much more naïve mom, I stared in disdain at parents pushing strollers stuffed with too old kids. By "too old," I mean the kids’ legs were so long, their sneakers nearly dragged along the sidewalk. “Isn’t that kid old enough to walk?” I’d opine to my husband, who’d agree with gusto. We vowed we’d stroller wean our daughter early. She'd walk everywhere!

Then, of course, our daughter grew ... then one day, soon after her 4th birthday, she was THAT kid, stuffed in our Maclaren, sneakers dragging on the sidewalk. What happened?

Turns out my problem has a name: “containerized kids.” And it’s a growing trend according to the expert who coined this term, Jane Clark, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland. Since birth, she argues, kids today are spending more and more time in car seats, high chairs, and strollers. Much of this is for safety, of course, yet Clark argues that these kids are suffering in that they’re not getting enough exercise.

Studies support Clark’s conclusions: Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland tracked the movements of 3-year-olds for a week with a motion sensor clipped to their waistband. They found that the average toddler was active for only a mere 20 minutes a day, much less than the hour that pediatricians recommend.

Part of me wondered whether there was something "wrong" with my daughter for not wanting to walk. Was she anemic? Regressing? But eventually I chalked up her reluctance to walk to the fact that anyone, at any age, would prefer to hitch a ride -- my husband joked he'd enjoy an adult-size stroller. Still, it was clearly time to start stroller weaning our daughter. Only how?

More from The Stir: The Big Stroller Mistake Moms Make

My husband, the “bad cop” in our family, advised me to just take her out without the stroller and keep walking. Even if our daughter threw a fit on the sidewalk, she would eventually pick herself up and run after me. Since that seemed too harsh for my tastes, I decided to try bribery instead, offering her a frozen yogurt every day she walked to and from preschool. That worked like a charm, although I worried the sweets negated the extra exercise she was now getting ... time to switch the bribe to Hello Kitty stickers?

We haven’t ditched the stroller entirely. Since we live in a city and don’t own a car, we often walk far and keep the stroller handy for these longer jaunts. But the first thing I noticed as soon as my daughter was walking more often was this: Man, she is slow. Which makes total sense -- her legs are a third the length of mine. Since I’m usually in a rush, my hands often itch for the stroller as she dawdles her way down the block. Still though: If my daughter isn't worth the wait, who is?

At what age did your kid stop using a stroller?

Image © Image Source/Corbis

being a mom


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

nonmember avatar JMS

Not me, I crammed my kid into the stroller/shopping cart way past the time he fit. For one, at the store if he was in the cart he wasn't touching/breaking/getting into anything. And in the stroller, we used to walk a two mile loop every day - pushing all that extra weight had my arms and back looking fabulous!!!! Hated it when he finally outgrew it. Eventually had to give up the loop, spent more time standing around waiting for him to 'keep up' then actually getting any exerciser, and then we moved.

Einyn Einyn

At about 18 months. I'm a runner and a walker and they all wanted to "race" with me.

Smoke... Smokeygirl

We barely ever use the stroller and our son is 1 1/2 years old. He walks or I'll use a mai tai to wear him on my back. He's an active kid who never slows down.

Crystal Red

while he wasn't touching/breaking/getting into anything he also wasn't learning self restraint and discipline not to do those things without needing to be strapped down.

caleb... calebsmama12312

My son wanted no parts of the stroller after he turned 2. It was no big deal bc we really only used it to go for walks around the neighborhood. It surprises me that the 3yo in the study was only active for 20mins a day. I feel like my kid doesn't sit on his butt from the minute he wakes up until he falls back asleep at night.

Cheryln Kurz

I despise seeing big kids in strollers.  I was weaned super early...probably around 2 when my sister was born.  We didn't have a double stroller.  Kids should walk.  As a teacher, kids are consantly out of their seats, so I know they are very able to walk!!!

J'zanne Read

On occasion, I still use mine. I have a pinched nerve in my back, so it's not a good idea for me to lift a 40lb child, if the kid is un well and the older one has to get into school. I'm not leaving the sick kid in the car, if I can't lift, the kid rides.

Medic... MedicMommy2

By 2 both kids were out of a stroller but I wore them more often before that. We only use the jogging stroller for the 4 year old when we go on our 5 mile walks. Our seven year old can make it but the 4 year old does about a mile then rides about a mile and back and forth. 

1-9 of 9 comments