Written by Vicki Macchiavello for Nannies Plus

Every nanny and parent knows: there is a toddler coming-of-age stage where the child, who once rode so serenely in a stroller or was happy to be worn in a carrier, no longer has the patience for such things.

It usually happens when they begin to walk and the world becomes accessible to them in a way that it never was before. In cities like San Francisco, walks down the street become brand new and magical and are a great way to enjoy your time together. Little ones stop at every flower or mailbox and look around with a delicious sort of wanderlust. 

As a parent or nanny you want to encourage this kind of exploration–it’s enriching and fun!…until it’s taking too long to get you where you are going. Sometimes forward motion becomes practically impossible as the child heads in the opposite direction and is resistant to being picked up.

Cue potential meltdown unless you have some tricks up your sleeve.

Here are some playful tips for encouraging a dawdling toddler to move towards your destination:

Streetlight High Fives

In this simple game make an agreement that every time the toddler gets to a sign post or streetlight you will high five, elbow bump, or do a little dance. Choose something the child enjoys doing naturally and then point to the sign post and say, “Let’s make it to that spot, and when we get there we will high five!” Once you get there, follow through, and then point to the next sign post, and so on, as you both move on down the street.

Sing Yourselves Along

The lyrics below set to the tune of “Are You Sleeping (Brother John)?” can be sung to a toddler while holding their hand and demonstrating the actions while moving down the street. Are you going to look a little bit like a fool doing it? Maybe, BUT kiddo will move down the street and any onlookers will be so impressed by your nannying or parenting skills that they might just stop to ask you for the lyrics to the song to use with their own dawdling toddler.

Marching, marching,
Marching, marching,
Hop hop hop,
Hop hop hop,
Running running running,
Running running running
Now we stop
Now we stop


Most sidewalks have concrete or plastic lids to water meter boxes every 15 feet or so. To a child, these are now Power-Ups! What does this mean? This means that you, the nanny or parent, point out the lid of these water meters and say, “That’s a Power-Up and when we see one we tap our foot on it and it makes us go fast!” Then you and the child tap your foot, activating the Power-Up which makes you pick up your pace for a minute or two and gain a few feet towards your destination. Make sure you are holding the toddler’s hand as you play Power-Ups.  

Walking down the street with a toddler while trying to arrive at a destination can take a lot of patience but nannies and parents from San Ramon to Piedmont can use these playful tips to get there with minimal meltdowns and maximum fun!

What other strategies do you have for encouraging dawdling toddlers?