Once too big for the backpack, and once a child can walk, that is what they should do. It may slow you up a bit moving at toddler pace but it will quickly develop stamina in your child. By allowing them the independence of walking when they want to, they will be more likely to walk when you want them to.
In contrast to these simple and natural options, modern contraptions available have only downsides. Old fashioned prams - those elaborate spoked 4 wheel vehicles with springs and parcel trays and sunhoods - are not as popular as they once were. A variety of strollers have nowadays taken their place. However, such prams do have distinct advantages over the newer types for babies under 6 months as the carriage provides a roomy horizontal bed for the baby. They are strong and stable on all types of territory and have higher handles and workspace making them easier to push with less need to bend. However they are extremely bulky and heavy, making their portability and manoeuvrabil-ity in public very difficult.
The modern strollers which have mainly replaced have the advantages of lightness, portability, manoeuvrability and cheapness (well some are not cheap). Their primary disadvantage is the postural harm they do to the child, and this is no small matter. For a child who cannot sit up unsupported they should absolutely not be used. Against commonsense, and even the manufactur-ers recommendations, some mothers use strollers to sit very young infants partially vertical. This is not good for their spine or their brain at such a young age. For children who are new to sitting, they are also a disaster as they induce a slumping shape in the newly forming spine. Squashing a child into them who is too large will slump them even further and create much tension in the legs, hips and pelvic area. Their lower handles, and the stooping required to attend to the child, can be very tiring on a mother's recovering body.
The Beginnings of Yoga for Children
In the yoga system, traditionally up until the age of about 7, a child develops their physical and spiritual understanding through a natural infusion from the surrounding familial and social environments. A developing child does not need to do serious yoga, in fact they should not do it towards any kind of postural disciplinary ends. If left alone in their play, on the floor or on the grass, they will do their own range of yoga things, just as they feel they need to. Ideally, modern life would not get in the way of this, subtly conditioning their body
in negative ways, but sadly this occurs through bad diet, a sedentary life, and influences such as furniture.
If you want to introduce your child to the wonderful world of yoga early on, it should be done in a way which is not overly regimented but which will infuse an acceptance and enjoyment of it such that, as they grow up, they will choose to adopt it out of freewill and as an enjoyable routine. They will also get a feeling for its spiritual benefits and it may be this aspect which draws a young adult deeper into yoga and meditation.
From about the age of 4 or 5, a young child can be shown some simple yoga things. Prior to then, it is of course the example a parent sets which shows a child what is acceptable. If they see you doing your yoga and meditation and if they sense that it helps you keep yourself together, they will know that it is a "good thing". Rather than them breaking into your own yoga time, you can do some with them later. Exploring new ways to use the body are always attractive to children. Imitating the animal poses, short Yoga Nidras with stories and visualisations, or chanting some kirtan, are all fun ways to enjoy their body, relax their feelings and concentrate their mind. Methods of breath control should not be done at this stage but teaching them awareness of nose breathing is always important.
At about 7 years old, a few formal yoga methods are introduced which begin preparing the child's body for the changes of puberty. Puberty is not something which just clicks in at 15, 13 or even 11, but is something which has been slowly developing for many years prior to its obvious symptoms. These years of pre-pubic development are a very important time to help manage how the sexual hormones will affect the child, which in turn will pattern much of that child's adult life. During this phase, the child learns dynamic exercises such as Surya Namaskara for physical co-ordination, energy balance and endocrine balance. They will learn the supreme brain balancing Pranayama of Nadi Shodhan. And more than just the bio-emotional effects, early yoga and meditation can affect their mental preparations as well. A little bit of Mantra Japa will introduce the experiences of concentra-tion, contemplation and self awareness.
Following the onset of puberty proper, individual yoga sadhanas are prescribed for the young adult which encourage integration of their whole physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. In this way, many of those nasty side effects of puberty - where the child (and the parents!) feel out of control - can be avoided.