Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

October 19, 2011

To walk or not to walk? The great buggy debate.

So, we know childhood obesity is a problem and it was reported in the Telegraph this week that the issue of the humble buggy could also now be a contributory factor to this problem.

'Make your 3-year-old walk on short trips', rather than strapping them into the buggy all the time is the advice being given by Health Ministers. And I, for one, say here, here.

I think one of the more depressing sights on our streets has to be the school child, slumped into a buggy which is about four sizes too small for them, dragging their shoes along underneath it while they scoff a packet of Wotsits. It makes me shudder. It's almost worse than seeing a builder's bum. Almost.

OK, we all know how eye-crunchingly frustrating it is to walk anywhere with a toddler. A five-minute 'pop to the shops' becomes a polar expedition, stopping here, there and everywhere to look at this leaf and that twig. And yes, it's sometimes difficult to know what time you'll need to leave the house to allow enough time with a dawdling tot to make sure you get to where you need to be in time. You have to keep your eyes peeled and keep up a constant stream of cautionary advice, 'Watch where you're going,' 'Careful of the cars,' 'You're a bit too near the kerb' etc etc. So, of course, the temptation is to hoist the kids into the buggy so we can go wherever we want, at our own pace and in our own, invariably precious, time.

Both my boys were out of the buggy and walking to the local shops by the age of around two. Of course, for longer trips and busy shopping centres the buggy came in handy, but as far as I can remember the buggy quickly became more of a hindrance than a help, tipping itself over every time someone got out of it (that I do not miss) and anyway the boys went as rigid as iron girders if I so much as attempted to strap them into it.

The buggy is now somewhere shoved into the back of the attic. I'm sure that because I haven't used the buggy for so long, I have put myself through some additional frustrations and done more than my fair share of chiding the boys along to get to where ever we are going, but they are now great walkers (6 hr hike up a mountain in the Lake District at ages 4 and 6!) and, more importantly, they understand the rules of walking near roads and crossing the road safely.

What do you think? Do buggies have their time and place or do you rely heavily on your buggy for a 3-yr-old (or older)? It's an interesting debate and one which I am sure will continue to run for as long as the buggy manufacturers continue to think up ways of keeping us hooked on their products.



  1. I HATE seeing children old enough to walk 4-5 years, sat in a buggy and worst of all drinking from a bottle or sucking on a dummy grrr!!!

    It's the easy way out for some parents, because like to stated, they probs dread the thought of the child moaning and crying after a few minutes of walking, BUT the more you introduce walking, the more the child will walk.

    I agree, around 2 the child should be able to walk to local shops, holding parents hand. :)

  2. We ditched the buggy completely for Luke when he was 18months. We were in Bosnia and it was just more of a hinderance than a help. I knew it was a bit mean when we came back to the UK and he saw a child of his age (then about 3 1/2) and he turned to me with wide eyes and said with an expression of awe "Mummy - what is that!"

    I would add that he is now phenomenally idle. He used to walk well but now getting him out for a walk is just torture. His brother (who had the buggy until he as about 2 1/2) is a far better walker.

    Personally I missed using the buggy more for keeping the children in one place when in, say, the postoffice than transporting them around.

    Personally I can't bear seeing older kids in a buggy. It feels wrong. It's all about what they expect. If they expect it then they will whinge if they don't have it. If they don't then they won't. At some point there is a painful period of transition but after that you're away.

  3. My three year old daughter walks everywhere. we only take the buggy when she not feels well or where we will be walking around allday.

  4. I used reins. People used to give me dreadful looks but, as you say, she was walking. She was safe and everytime she tripped up I had her caught, swinging(!) but caught!! When she was nearly 4 we took her to Australia, never crossed our minds to take a buggy. In the Northern Teritory she was pooped, she just couldn't cope with the heat. We borrowed the hotel manager's next door neighbour's buggy (they are nice like that up there!) she was a too big a child in a buggy, I know it looked bad but it was the only way we could get anywhere in the heat and the flies.

  5. This is one of my pet issues! I live in Australia so forgive me for using 'stroller' instead of 'buggy'. I have 2 kids, now 7 and 4. I pushed my son home from school in his stroller until he was 5 and a half. Anyone who commented on it got their head bitten off. Pushing the stroller it took me about half an hour, when he walked it was about an hour. I don't have a car so it particularly annoyed me when people who drove their kids everywhere commented on me using a stroller. My son could happily walk for hours and often did but at the end of a prep day he was tired and I was happy to push him (I had a double stoller so he sat on the top bit and the baby was underneath). Some days when they were younger I would be out of the house by about 8 in the morning and not get back until after 6 at night. I didn't expect him to stay on his feet all day or to be able to keep up with my walking pace all day and I didn't have the time to go at his pace every time we went out. I think that deciding when to give up the stoller is a matter of peoples circumstances as well as the age of the child. I still push my 4 year old daughter in the stoller if I'm out all day (for shorter trips I don't take it) but overall I think she probably spends a lot more time on her feet than kids who are driven everywhere.
    End rant. ;)

  6. When my 4 year old started school, I had to take the 2 year old along for the ride. School was a 15 minute walk uphill. We walked up to his school and home nearly every day but as I had sports kit, folder, hat and coat which he refused to wear until he was at the school gate!, lunch box and 2 year old, I needed a bit of help with the trip. We used a Red Radio Flyer wagon for all these trips and it was brilliant. 4 year old walked and sometimes so did the 2 year old but what was great was that I could carry all the stuff too. The coat and hat and even the puppies when they came along!

  7. So glad you've raised it.

    Both mine were out of buggy's from age of 2 1/2

    We love to walk everywhere (I don't drive either) and even having to struggle back up hill from shops home can be an adventure.

    So if you see a woman marching like a soldier up a hill in a silly way with kids up front it'll be me!

  8. Just lost previous post - hate Blogger these days. I agree - Hate seeing poor bored kids confined while mummy shops. I'm the annoying woman in shops who lets her toddler run free while my buggy carries the shopping... people look at me as if to say 'why don't you put her in hte buggy?' but I don't think it's her fault I need two hours to get stuff done and it's not fair to keep her restricted. Good post!

  9. I feel strongly about this. The other day I saw a women pushing a buggy down the road and I heard the child say "ahh doggy" as I approached (walking my dog) I smiled as it was cute. When I got closer I saw the size of the child in the buggy and was gob smacked. She could barely fit in, there is nooooo way she was young enough to still be in a buggy. Shocking laziness!

  10. I live in Gran Canaria and the tendency here is to keep children strapped in pretty much constantly, even on the beach, it freaks me out!

    Mum & Dad frolic happily in the cool Atlantic Ocean, whilst toddler is firmly strapped to buggy, pouring with sweat, with obligatory pot of warm custard clamped in hand, gazing wistfully at refreshed parents!

    I have used slings for my 3 children and buggies, for long days out and naps the buggy is indispensible, otherwise I like to think of it as a shopping aid.

  11. Really great post by the way!

  12. It's obviously getting the same way in the UK, but here in the States kids don't seem to walk anywhere. I live less than a quarter of a mile from our school; it was hissing down with rain today so we wore rain coats and carried umbrellas. I wouldn't have even considered driving as I would have had to park outside my house and it would have taken longer than walking. As we approached the school doors, another mother commented on how "good" I was that I made my kids walk! What?
    Yes, speed is a consideration, but I won't get my car out unless it's an emergency or we have to walk more than a mile. Kids become conditioned to walking distances; my husband walks ours miles and miles and they always seem to manage.
    For longer walks, when they were 3-5 we used the Wagon, as mentioned by Mother Hen. They aren't the most comfortable ride so I used to know my kids were really tired when they got in ours!

  13. I just bought a bigger buggy for my 2 1/2 year old. Not because she'd still want one, but because I like to go on long walks and on the way back, she'd usually sit on my hips, too tired to walk. I also take it to the local shop (about half a mile) and mostly use it to push the shopping back home :)

  14. My children's school has recently started making the classes walk two miles to the local computer learning centre. One of the (larger) mums declared this was 'child abuse'. I've always walked by 7 and 9-year old to school, but since we've moved to London the 9-year old has become embarrassed about it because her chauffeured classmates declare walking is uncool. They all, of course, have expensive subscriptions to gyms.

  15. This is where I reckon the sling has done us well - yes we use the buggy (I can't carry both of them) - but normally for trips to town I have the sling in my bag to carry Littler when she gets tired and then have a free hand to drag Bigger around. If I have the buggy both insist on sitting in it...

  16. What an exciting and debate-able article/post! Great to be following you after stumbling across your blog.
    Thanks for inspiration

  17. The oldest and the youngest were out of their strollers by the time they could say "noooooooooooooo" but the middle son? Well, he still be in it I'm sure. He'd still be napping and drinking out of a sippy cup if he could too. Bless.


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