Walk On: How to encourage kids to walk further (without moaning!)
It struck me recently, when listening to someone else’s child complain bitterly on a walk, that my kids don't moan anywhere near as much as they used to do about walking. I protested lots about family walks as a child, only to discover how much I actually loved walking as a grown up. I’ve been determined to try and curb the complaining and raise happy walkers. Hindsight is a brilliant thing, and it hasn't always been easy, but here’s how we did it:
Invest in some mini versions of equipment like bug catchers, binoculars and cameras or let them share yours. Remember there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. Fleeces and hiking boots have been a really worthwhile investment.
Let them pack a rucksack with snacks if they want to, and whatever small things they feel they need for on the journey. Secretly pack treats yourself, to pull out when the going gets tough. Have a rucksack you can easily tie coats and jumpers to.
Call it an 'adventure' not a walk
Make up a story about the place, borrow ideas from their stories, little ones can hunt Gruffalos, go on bear hunts, but look for the less obvious stories too. Many places already have stories, my local favourites are Nottingham's forest, the Hemlock stone and Wollaton Park.
Give them time
Children know how to have fun in nature. The moaning soon subsides, try to ignore it and either distract them, or let them ease their way into finding their own things to do.
Try a scavenger hunt
First one to find a green leaf, pink flower, red berry, stick, stone, fir cone. Give them a list with a collection of things to spot or try Geocaching. Take some bags or pots to collect things in, or simply see how many different things you can put in a bag.
Let them take the lead
Look out for child friendly guides and maps. Check out Change 4Life for ideas and links to routes across the UK. Let children hold the map, even if they aren’t sure where they are going, it gives them a feeling of being in control of the walk.
Create a forest postcard
Take a piece of card with a strip of sticky back plastic or sticky tape stuck to it. Collect things as you walk to stick on the picture - leaves, petals, bark, feathers.
Get off the beaten track
Vary the scenery each week: forests, lakes, hills, rivers, canals.
Look for routes with distractions
Sculptures, dens, hollowed out trees, ruins, bushes, landmarks, pubs or cafes half way, playgrounds at the end (if they have energy leftover).
Up the stakes
Sometimes we have found kids respond better to the challenge of climbing a mountain, mine are more likely to deem a round walk ‘pointless’. It’s something to do with the achievement of reaching a peak.
Follow the story of the seasons
In autumn blackberry picking and leaf scrunching are brilliant distractions. In winter, we’ve collected sprigs of evergreens to make garlands to decorate for Christmas. In spring, you can look for lambs, and in summer you can collect flowers to press.
Don't force it
Even the most well trained walkers will lose interest from time to time. Take a break, do something else and you’ll come back refreshed. May is National Walking Month, and it’s a brilliant time to get kids out and about. The child I mentioned who was complaining? He was first to the top of the mountain, and after that achievement I have a feeling he won’t look back!
What do you do to persuade your kids to walk more on days out?