Savouring the art of Stroll Play

Carolyn Cooper revels in the simple delights of stepping out with her daughters.

I love going for a walk; it’s a therapeutic and refreshing opportunity to clear my mind. I often take my two young daughters with me on neighbourhood strolls. As well as the physical, mental, emotional and social benefits walking affords, it also lets me spend quality time with my children. Instead of ferrying them from one paid, structured activity to the next, we spend that time enjoying the neighbourhood and literally smelling the roses, at no cost.

Going for walks with the family was a feature of my upbringing, and I hope that by repeating this healthy habit with my daughters they, too, will grow up with fond memories of a meaningful time together and come to enjoy walking for its simple, healthy pleasures, not merely as a means to an end.

As we head up our street, I love watching the girls race ahead, their little feet pounding the pavement, their small, agile bodies hungry for exercise. I love hearing their shrill, excited voices as they race to keep up with one another. But most of all, I love being there with them enjoying the pure simplicity of walking.

I marvel at their determination as they challenge their muscles to scramble up a garden wall, testing their balance as they walk its length before athletically jumping to the ground. A nearby boulder provides the perfect training ground for my two budding rock climbers as they navigate and scale its uneven and crumbling surface. Yes, there is risk of falling and injury, but with encouragement and practice they’re learning to trust their instincts, getting to know their bodies, finding balance, developing their strength and confidence, and identifying their fear threshold. Reaching the top, they breathe in the view and take pride in their feat while I praise them.

A walk can also let the imagination blossom, unleashing pure childhood emotions of joy, happiness, pleasure and anticipation– emotions all too easily dulled by time spent indoors with multimedia entertainment. When we’re outside walking, I notice my daughters connect as sisters. As they skip and leap ahead of me, I hear their excited squeals and raspy, breathless voices – each one eager to include the other in their shared adventure. Navigating the well-trodden path, they take turns to lead, discovering things together, teaching, learning, helping, supporting, encouraging. As a mother, I cherish them being together like this – it’s reassuring to know that behind the taunting, whingeing and crying that goes on at times, there is a strong sisterly bond that flourishes under the right circumstances.

Walking up our street and around the corner helps reinforce a sense of belonging as we meet and greet neighbours. A friendly wave and hello not only helps foster important social skills, but familiarises my daughters with their surroundings, learning who lives where and giving them a sense of security and confidence should they ever need help.

My girls take great pleasure in collecting flower petals, buds and mottled butterfly-shaped leaves and inspecting mushrooms and stones strewn across our path. Sure, I could lament the number of times I’ve found these items throughout my handbag, but I cherish this childhood paraphernalia, a testament to the quality time we spend together. I know I’ll soon have my tidy handbag back – with my daughters nearly four and six, I see how fleeting childhood is, and I know their lives will soon be filled with other activities.

Taking the time to engage in simple activities such as walking with my children while they are young allows me to savour these precious moments.

Illustration by Cheri Scholten

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joanna.love@childmags.com.au