How to keep a toddler happy in the jogging stroller is a question you don’t think you need answered until your child throws a tantrum in their 5-point harness and you’re worried that bystanders think a kidnapping is taking place.
You’re not alone in this pursuit.
This article has tips on keeping toddlers happy in a jogging stroller—brought to you by moms who have battled in the same fight. Keep reading to learn how to make rides in the jogging stroller more entertaining for both of you.
Tips on How to Keep a Toddler Happy in the Jogging Stroller
1. Play Games
Playing games while running with your toddler in a jogging stroller makes the lengthy ride and grueling workout more fun for both parties. Easy favorites include:
Give your child a managing role in Scavenger Hunt by letting them create the list of things to find. My daughter usually puts “penguins” on the list, but we’re still at 0/0 sightings here in Detroit.
If the game gets too predictable, challenge yourselves to “spy” only red things, certain lawn ornaments, objects that start with the letter “?”, etc.
Name that animal noise
Make animal noises and have your toddler identify the animal. Alternatively, ask your child what noise the *insert animal* makes.
Pretend the stroller is a racecar
This is super simple and I can’t help but get into it by vocalizing the “vroom vrooms” and screechy turns. Let your toddler navigate by having them tell you where to go with commands of “right”, “left”, or “straight ahead!”
This one requires an open, smooth pathway and safe surroundings. Countdown from 3, then push (launch) the jogger away from you. Sprint to catch the jogger and your giggling baby. Consider this your interval training.
KEEP IT SAFE: Make sure your front wheel is locked for running. Don’t launch your jogging stroller to where it takes more than 3 seconds to catch up to it. And don’t you dare do this on a busy street, into a curb, or at an intersection.
SPOTTO (an Aussie classic!)
OTM runner from Australia, Chelsea, plays this jogging stroller game while pushing her two kids in her Thule Chariot.
The game is simple: whoever sees a yellow car and shouts “spotto!” gets a point. Whoever has the most points by the end of your run is the winner who, according to the official rules of SPOTTO, wins “glory and immortality.”
2. Bring Exclusive “Jogger Only” Toys or Books
Use the power novelty has on toddlers to your advantage. Set aside a small group of toys and books for your child to enjoy only when they are riding in the jogging stroller.
Some jogger-friendly toys include:
Slider puzzle – Uses sliding blocks fixed on a small frame to create an image. You won’t need to worry about pieces falling overboard.
Etch A Sketch or Magna Doodle – No mess or lost crayons.
Play steering wheel – Buy a toy steering wheel, make one out of cardboard, or give your kid an old N64 controller so they can pretend to drive the jogging stroller as you run.
Linked measuring spoons – My daughter was inexplicably mesmerized by a set of cheap, plastic measuring spoons that I threw into the jogging stroller whenever we went running. She’s spent so much time inspecting and matching them up to one another.
3. Treat with Snacks
If handing your toddler a packet of fruit snacks dilutes a whining fit while in the jogging stroller, it’s a noble compromise. The best snacks to give your toddler in the jogging stroller can range from nutrient-rich fruits to special sweets.
Stick to snacks that won’t crumble easily or squirt out a glop of mush any time you hit a bump. Apples, pears, cucumber slices, cheese sticks, carrots, raisins, or a container of cereal trail mix are healthy, limited-mess snacks that keep little hands busy while riding in the jogging stroller.
In the realm of sweets, bring candies you can ration throughout the ride, like Skittles or M&Ms. You can make distance goals and reward a treat at every mile or point of interest. Candies can also be incorporated into jogging stroller games as prizes.
4. Create a Running Kit for Your Jogging Stroller
In this context, a running kit is a bag, box, or pouch you store in your jogging stroller. It contains whatever combination of knick-knacks your toddler can entertain themselves with while riding in the jogger.
Your running kit could include:
A special toy
Non-perishable treats (fruit snacks, candy, cookies, raisins, lollipops, etc.).
Handheld games (time to resurrect the Game Boy!)
Magnetic color pad or doodle pad with pen attached.
The key to the jogging stroller running kit is only allowing your kid to play with it during jogger rides. You can rotate items and add surprises to keep the magic alive. A fun running kit will give your toddler something exciting to associate with riding in the jogging stroller.
5. Take Fun Stops or End at an Exciting Destination
Transform your runs with the jogging stroller into fun little outings. Here are some ideas:
Map your run to include a stop at a park part way through.
Run to a park and keep pace by jogging laps around the play area while your toddler scrambles to their heart’s content (I’ve done this, and it’s not as crazy-looking as you might think).
End your run at a park—kid(s) get to play while mom gets to cool down.
Top a jogging stroller run with a post-workout treat at a bakery or café—this gives you both something to look forward to.
Before leaving with your toddler in the jogging stroller, explain the plan to them: “We’re going for our run and then we’ll stop for ice cream. Sound good?” How a toddler responds on that given day is anyone’s guess, but it is a lesson in compromise and learning patience over instant gratification.
6. Keep Things New and Interesting
Every runner has experienced the dullness of repetitive and boring miles. So, it’s not hard to be empathetic to the fact toddlers get bored in the jogging stroller.
Run routes with a lot going on; busy storefronts, captivating neighborhood gardens, holiday displays, or recreational areas. I run by a local equestrian club with my daughter in the jogging stroller because she’s always thrilled to see the horses out and about.
7. Sing to or with Your Toddler
Pocket your vocal shyness for now, and sing songs out loud to your toddler while jogging.
Singing while running does test your lungs a little. I definitely fight for breath between Taylor Swift ballads. But entertaining your toddler in the jogging stroller with a song is preferable to having them scream over your favorite workout playlist.
Your toddler might also enjoy playing DJ. Ask them if they have any song requests and do your best to deliver. Invite them to sing too. Chelsea says her older child sings to her youngest while she’s pushing both of them in the jogging stroller.
8. Have a Conversation
When it comes to how to keep a toddler happy in the jogging stroller, it’s important for them to feel like they are part of the ride rather than extra luggage. Use this time to engage.
Talk to them, make observations with them, ask them who they’re voting for in the next election, or to mimic as many animal noises as they can. Anything you can think of! If I’m listening to the radio on my iPod, I’ll reiterate what’s being said to my daughter.
All of this weaves into giving your toddler a sense their company is valued and they are as much a part of this workout as you are
9. Keep the Length of Your Runs Reasonable for Your Child
It’s not fair to expect hours of cooperation when running with a toddler in a jogging stroller. Their tolerance for being trapped in their seat is significantly lower than it was when they were a sleeping newborn.
Save long training runs for when you aren’t running with the jogging stroller. When your toddler is with you, keep your runs between 30 minutes and 1 hour. If you need to be out for longer, stop at a park midway so they can move around freely for a bit.
10. Recline the Seat
If your toddler is old enough to ride in the jogging stroller without the shoulder straps (keep the lower part of the harness buckled), reclining the seat offers more wiggle room and a sense of freedom within the jogger.
I didn’t know this hack until I was taking photos of my stroller with the seat reclined for a Summit X3 stroller review article. Upon seeing the seat reclined, my 2-year-old actually got into the jogging stroller by herself and sat back in her newfound lounge area.
11. In Times of Great Desperation, Use Technology
Sometimes, a screen is the only way a toddler will calm down. We’re not above phoning in technology to make riding in the jogging stroller more entertaining for our wee passengers. We’re just as desperate to get that run in—whether we’re training for a marathon or sustaining our own mental health in the pits of parenthood.
12. Give it 10-20 minutes
Whether your toddler is fussing while you’re buckling them in or they begin writhing mid-run, don’t let the first sign of protest foreshadow how you think the rest of the ride is going to go.
Of course, make a quick stop to check in with your toddler to make sure all is well. Then, give them (and yourself) time to work through the frustration of not being able to be somewhere else at the moment. In my experience, most jogging stroller tantrums fizzle out within 5 minutes.
Let your child know you’re there and they are safe. If your toddler is still a wreck after 10 or so minutes, it’s probably time to call it a day and count your mad dash home as speed work.
Why Doesn’t My Toddler Like the Jogging Stroller?
A toddler’s resistance to sitting still for drawn-out amounts of time is a matter of their advancement as a walking, curious human being. Their opposition is most likely triggered by them wanting to explore and move. Who could blame them?
Whitney Heins, mother of two and creator of Themotherrunners.com, says to “Play into this growing developmental stage.” This can be done by stopping somewhere midway into your run and giving your toddler a chance to saunter around.
Other Reasons Why Child is Unhappy in the Jogging Stroller
Sometimes, your child may have a valid reason for protesting the jogging stroller. Check in with them often to ensure they are physically okay and not experiencing the following:
Discomfort – Inspect the jogging stroller’s seat for anything that could be causing discomfort. Adjust the harness or recline to make sure your child is comfortable during the ride.
Hunger or thirst – Offer snacks and water during your runs with the jogging stroller.
Too hot or too cold – Travel with blankets, sunglasses, and appropriate clothing for outdoor weather conditions. Use the stroller’s canopy to block beating sun or biting wind.
What Are the Right Times to Take My Toddler Running in the Jogger?
While there aren’t universally golden hours to run with your kid in a jogging stroller, there are times to avoid such as:
Meal times when your child is hungry.
When your toddler is already cranky or in a miserable mood.
When outdoor temperatures exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) or are lower than 20 degrees F (-6 degrees C).
I’ve found mid-morning and early evening to be the best times to run with my toddler in the jogging stroller. Both times are when she’s been awake for a while and has released some built-up wiggles, and she has eaten within the last hour so she won’t be hangry.
How Do I Keep My Toddler’s Toys from Falling Out of the Jogging Stroller?
You don’t always have to buy yet another accessory for your baby (cut to the number of times my kid favored the box a toy came in over the actual toy). You can make your own with what you have on-hand.
The key to keeping a toddler happy in the jogging stroller is engaging with them during your run. Just because they aren’t doing the grunt work doesn’t mean they’re not a stakeholder in this workout.
Make it fun for them. Doing so will unlock a quality to your runs you may not have had access to before running with a baby in a jogging stroller