Too big for stroller, so I might as well drive

No kindergartner rides to school in a stroller. That’s what we told our daughter last summer, in a desperate attempt to shame her into walking. Cue a Rocky-style training montage complete with red-faced grunts, tears, and anguished cries. And then!—“incentives” like popcorn and (ha!) new shoes. Step by painful step, she managed to work her way from zero to .7 miles. By the time fall rolled around, she was ready.

Audrey's very first stroller ride

10 weeks old: acceptable.

And guess what? We were right: no one rides to kindergarten in a stroller. They ride in cars. Now, we live in a geographically compact neighborhood of Portland. Every kid lives within a mile of the school. While I’m glad we finally Rocky-trained Audrey to walk to and from school every day, I can’t help but rail against the stigma “advanced stroller riders” face in this car-centric world.

There’s even a website devoted to making fun of bigger kids in strollers: Too Big for Stroller: Why Carting Your Big Kids Does a Disservice, an ABC article published last year, discusses the website’s popularity and cites experts who claim that stroller-riding kids will never develop their muscles or imaginations if they’re pushed around past the age of two or three. Please. I don’t understand why giving a child a daily stroller ride to run errands is so damaging, but chauffeuring them around in cars is never mentioned.

Age 4: Unacceptable!

Yes, it would look funny to see someone push a kid to school in a stroller—but why? Environmentally, it’s certainly better to push the kid  that half mile in a stroller than to drive him in a car. And at least the parent is getting a workout, even if the kid is kicking back like a little prince.

Now that we’ve retired the stroller, we take public transportation to places I used to walk. (Audrey still hates walking, never managing more than 1.5 miles in a single day.) It seems wasteful to ride a bus to get somewhere a mile or two from our house. It costs more, it damages the planet, and it takes longer. And no one bats an eye. No one posts a picture of us and posts it on a site called Experts don’t swoop in to chastise me for letting her lazily ride on public transportation.

Driving a half mile in a car: perfectly normal.

I’ll admit it: I wish it were socially acceptable to push my almost-six-year-old around in her stroller. I miss the walking.

P.S. If you want to avoid my sad fate, try Carfree with Kids for tips on How to Raise a Walker and pray for a robust child!


  1. Due to redistricting, we live about two miles from our son’s school so yes, dad drives him to school every day (while I take the bus to work, since my company pays for my bus pass). I wish we lived within a mile, then they would definitely walk or ride bikes to school.

    One thing about all those kids getting driven to your school, though–it is possible that at least some parents are dropping the kids off on their way to work, isn’t it?

  2. This is such a great point. I really think one thing living carfree does is push our kids towards more independence and self-sufficiency. In your case, it required rocky-esque walk training (you go!), whereas were blessed with a very motivated walker for a first kid. Our little guy (now 2 1/2) is not quite such a go-getter, and he knows we’re total suckers for biking him around, so I think we may have a bit more training in our future with him (and, for the record, our 5 y.o. often gets ridden to school on our cargo bike, expending exactly zero energy herself, so your daughter is miles ahead of ours in this regard. On the days one of us is home and the time pressure is less, we try to make sure she gets there on her own steam). Oh, and don’t knock yourself for taking the bus. Learning transit skills is great for kids and supporting public transit is good too, even if you might have walked on your own.

  3. Larisa, yes, I’m sure many of the parents are dropping their kids off on their way to work. I happen to know that many of them aren’t, though! It’s kind of funny; I often get unprompted guilty “explanations” like “Oh, I would have walked but I had to go to the store first!” I just think it’s funny that people don’t find it odd for a child to be transported a short distance in a car (or on a bike) but get all bent out of shaped by the oversized stroller-riders.

    Dorea, you are still an inspiration! It’s interesting to see how your kids, both raised in the same environment, have different approaches to walking. Some kids truly do seem inherently motivated to walk. A positive side of having a non-walker: we’ve never had to worry about her darting off into traffic or getting lost in a crowd!

  4. Thanks again for this post rebecca — it prompted us to get our youngest out on the sidewalk and it turns out he’s not too bad, so thanks for the nudge. We wrote a bit in response here:

  5. I remember breaking my leg at age 7 and there was an unbrella stroller in the closet for me to use one day before I got crutches. My mom had def used it on occassion with me as an older kid, esp at night. We lived in NYC and walking was the only way.

    My 8 year old would gladly ride in a super big stroller. She rides in my cargo bike now- which people think she should ride on her own bike- however we ride a dusk, in winter, up steep hills and do 5-7 mile loops running errands. Everyone else would do that in a car- so why shouldn’t she get a ride?

    thanks for your post. people’s idea of what should be, esp with *other people’s kids* always amazes me.

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