Too big for a stroller?

Today I discovered Walk, a new Tumblr site sharing photos of kids in strollers who are too old to be using strollers. The sentiment behind the site seems to be that kids who are old enough to walk should walk. The friend who posted it on Facebook wrote “Seriously, if your kid can walk without falling, your kid should walk without falling.” I can see how some might be annoyed by the sight of 7-11 year old squeezed into a stroller, but Walk is perhaps saying more than was intended.

As I looked through the photos, I couldn’t help but notice that a fair few of the kids in strollers were overweight. Considering that childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., this may not be coincidence.  According to the CDC, rates of childhood obesity have more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. Childhood obesity is a serious problem because it sets kids up for a lifetime of chronic illness and health issues. It also makes kids more susceptible to bullying and fat-shaming from their peers and society at large. While the causes of childhood obesity are multifaceted and complex, one is undoubtedly a lack of physical activity.

I strongly believe that when it comes to obesity, it is unfair to put all the blame on the individual. Our society promotes and condones unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles in a number of ways: the fast food industry, an economy based on office jobs, car-based societies, corn subsidies, food deserts, etc. For those who are low-income, a healthy lifestyle is almost impossible considering the lack of access to safe public recreation spaces, lack of leisure time, and high costs of fresh, healthy foods.

Perhaps another way that our culture unknowingly reinforces unhealthy behaviors is through “stroller culture.” Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything inherently bad about strollers (like Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s character in Away We Go), but that perhaps we use them too often and for too long. Looking at some of the images on Walk, it seems that might be the case. What are we teaching our school-aged children when we don’t expect them to walk alongside us? If anything, we’re reinforcing the idea that walking from the parking lot to the store is an imposition, or that physical activity is separate from the experience of living every day – something we only experience at the gym or playing sports.

My mother came out to Boston to visit on Mother’s Day. We were heading from my apartment in “Camberville” into the city, and I suggested that we could avoid the 18 minute walk to the T stop by taking a bus. She gave me a lecture on how walking was part of the urban experience and part of a healthy lifestyle.  At age 25, is my mom still pushing me out of the stroller?

I’m wary that Tumblr sites like this can often become places for fat-shaming (like People of Walmart) and I would hate for this to happen with Walk. Still, it is a reminder that walking is part of a healthy lifestyle for kids as well as adults.

3 thoughts on “Too big for a stroller?

  1. The thing that worries me about this Tumblr is that there are children who have health problems that prohibit them from walking, and not all of their parents can afford the fancy kind of strollers/wheelchairs that bridge the gap between a true stroller and a true wheelchair. While none of the current pictures seem to feature such children, it would be all too easy to lump them in with the others, in ignorance.

    A child who looks old enough and healthy enough to walk can still have a muscular or skeletal disorder, or a neurological or developmental condition that makes walking impossible or ill-advised, and I worry about how they would be treated if a Tumblr like this one got incredibly popular.

    • A child that had a medical condition would have a chair and wouldn’t be forced into a stroller. If a family can’t afford a chair, there are programs for disabled children.

      As a Special Ed teacher (Moderate/Severe), I work with such children on a daily basis. I also help their families apply to programs for financial assistance for things such as chairs. No doctor would allow a patient to be in a stroller rather than a chair. And Special Ed children should be encouraged to walk if medically able. I do not allow strollers in my classroom. If a parent really wants to use a stroller, they may do so from outside my classroom door, but not inside. Thankfully, I’ve never had this problem. People with Special Ed children desperately want them to live as normal existance as possible and a stroller for a 10 year old is not socaially normal.

      By continuing to put older children in stroller, we are simply infantising them. These kids have a much higher rate of being immature, needy and afaid to go off on their own. This is just another example of the over-protective parent. I honestly don’t believe these parents are purpously doing harm to their children, I think they just don’t realize how this and similar type behavior actually does have long term effects.

      And, on a side note, when I was ten, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in a stroller! I see kids with their legs crossed reading chapter books being pushed around in a stroller!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s