5-Minute Courage Workout: Navigating the Neighborhood

Compiled and written by Lisa and Jennifer:

Regardless of where you live, or how you get around your neighborhood, you and your child have a few familiar routes (to school, the supermarket, the subway/bus stop, or granny’s house).  The next time you travel one of those familiar routes, offer your child the chance to be the navigator instead of you.  Navigating the neighborhood is a vital life skill.  When we are the navigator of our own journey, we pay very close attention to where we are.  When we allow another to lead the way we take a back seat, lose our sense of direction, and forget how to find our own way home. 
Here’s a 5-Minute Courage Workout by age range, and remember, all workouts are most effective when you do them regularly.

Grab Some Lion’s Whiskers Today!
  • Toddler: when returning home sometime this week, just before you pull into the driveway, bike up the front path, or notice the apartment building ahead, ask your child to point in the direction of home.  When you are a block or two away, see if they recognize where they are and know how to get home.  If they don’t know, start by pointing out landmarks for them.
  •  Preschooler: when leaving home this week with your preschooler, ask if they know the name of their street and the number of their house.  Ask them which direction you both need to turn to start the familiar route to preschool, a pal’s house, or to the playground.  Hold their hand, and see how far they can lead you down that familiar path.  Or, ask them to give you directions from their car seat.
  • Early elementary student: stand at the front door of your home, ask your child to point in the direction of their school, the library, or their favorite pal’s house.  Get them to draw a map with their house in the middle of a page of blank paper.  Then, together draw the route to some of their favorite places.  Include street names and count the number of blocks. 
  • Upper elementary student or ‘tween: make your child a backseat driver (we know, we know…they’ll likely have lots of advice!)  Have them direct you turn by turn along a familiar route or have them navigate you home giving you directions from a map or the GPS (they get to input the information in the trip planner).  Get them to read the street names, tell you how far in miles you have yet to go, and about how long it will take. Get them to remember where you parked, so you can relax a little while shopping.
  • High schooler or teen:  they want a ride to a new friend’s house, to go to the mall on their own, their guitar practice is at a new location on the subway line. If they don’t already, get them to consider all the possible ways to get around without relying on you as their chauffeur or navigator.  Get them to tell you the fastest way there, print out the map, load the GPS, figure out the bus route, or tell you what route they may drive themselves. Discuss contingency plans for unexpected detours or expenses. 
Learning how to navigate the neighborhood provides benefits at every age.  For young children it builds confidence.  For older children who have learned to navigate their ‘hood, it’s a matter of beginning to pull their own weight.  For teens who’ve proven their independence, it’s a matter of security: knowing that they have more options than being driven (especially when they know the driver is new or might not be safest bet).
Working on these skills may call upon different types of courage, depending upon your child’s particular strengths and/or temperament.  For example, asking some children to give you directions may call upon intellectual courage, and for others it might take emotional courage to do the same task.  Review the Six Types of Courage to figure out which types your child needs to complete this workout.

Mike Lanza over at Playborhood wrote about Giving Freedom Incrementally to his son, who now has a large “home range.”

Here’s another 5-Minute Courage Workout: Playing with Fire.  And this 5-Minute Courage Workout: A Fate Worse Than Death! is on public speaking.  Squeamish about dirt? Try our 5-Minute Courage Workout: Talking Dirty to overcome your (and your child’s) reluctance.

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