This week … Get Your Kids Walking

Ok, so of course your kids can already walk. But maybe, their idea of a good walk is to the car and back? If that’s the case then maybe these words may help you get your children outside and actually enjoying going for a walk.

Harry on the summit of Lose Hill in the Peak District

image of a five year old boy standing proudly on top of Lose Hill in the Peak District

When to get started

Ever since my kids were born we’ve had a dog and we have had to go on walks. So my kids have been out on walks with us ever since they were babies in slings. It is without a doubt that these early experiences have helped develop a culture within our family that walking is something we do. If you have the time take every opportunity to leave the car or the buggy at home and to get your kids walking. Either way it’s never too late to start!

Top Tip #1 Be a role model

I strongly believe, that regardless of what your kids might say, that actually they probably think you’re GREAT! And if they see you regularly planning and going out on walks, they’re more likely to believe it might be a great idea. To help with this, take pictures on your walks and maybe display these around the house. But, in essence, model what you know is good from the outset and the kids will more likely see walking as normal and fun!

Top Tip #2 Early days – make walks an adventure!

There was a time when I had my two youngest boys three days week under my care for daddy-day-care. Harry would have been one and Patrick 3 and we had this dog that didn’t care for my problems, and that wanted and needed exercising, every day. So pretty much ever since the kids could walk we used to head to the nearby Rivelin Valley for an “Adventure Walk”.

This would comprise me applying gaffa tape over the kids’ waterproof trousers taping the trousers to their wellies, so in effect making waders. We’d then walk down the hill (easy) all of about 200m to a stream which the boys would then wade along kicking water as they went. If the boots leaked (and they always did at some point) they’d shout out “it leaks!”. The stream was a good 400m long – so by the end of this we’d covered the best part of half a mile. At the end of the stream there is a small waterfall, which we would traditionally stand at the top of, kicking water down. Kicking water off the top of something high is fun.

After all the wet stuff – they’d be fairly wet. So I always brought a flask of hot chocolate, some fruit and a chocolate biscuit. Finally we’d cover the last 400m back to the car up the third track playing hide and seek. Now we might only have walked 1km but for them that was some feat. It’d take us a good hour and a half, and with plenty of stick throwing the hound would be happy with this too.

Whatever you do make your walks fun and the kids won’t even know they’re growing and developing their walking legs. (More ideas for adventure walks here).

Top Tip #3 Go equipped

In those early days, for maybe just a 1Km walk with my nippers I’d go like I was equipped for war. Yes that means nappies, wipes and bags etc. But also I’d be sure to pack a small towel, a spare shirt for each of them on the way, a small first aid kit and then a complete spare set of dry clothes for when we got back to the car. For the walk we’d usually pack snacks and maybe some form of shelter too for wet or windy days. Think ahead, think what might make the experience unpalatable for them, and pack accordingly.

Top Tip #4 Be daft (ambitious) with your plans

Never underestimate what your kids can do. Twice last year I was amazed by what my kids achieved. Joss then aged 8, managed to walk 20 miles of our Challenge4Charity route – and she absolutely loved it! Harry aged 4, managed to climb Snowdon and back again without any tears. He’s dined out on that one ever since. Each time I thought the plan was a bit daft and slightly too ambitious, but I was proved wrong!

At the same time as being a bit daft, make sure you build into any plan some flexibility to cut any long walk short. If plan “daft” doesn’t work out, have plans B, C and D up your sleeve. Don’t obsess over whether or not you get somewhere in particular, or achieve a given goal, but focus instead on making the experience positive and enjoyable.

Top Tip #5 Tell a story

Walking is meant to be sociable. So talk. Tell your kids about when you were a kid. Tell them a story that you make up as you go along. If you can’t make a story up as you go along, tell them a story but with their names included. (Three Billy Goats Gruff with Jocelyn, Patrick and Harry for example). Kids love to hear a story and they love you telling them – so tell them a story and you will eat up the distance with ease. Failing that – play games (eg 20 Questions or I Spy).

Top Tip #6 Bring some friends

Do not under-estimate the value of more kids. Believe it or not, it doesn’t double the problem, it almost negates any problem whatsoever. Joss walked those 20 miles last year, not because I was with her but because we were with another girl aged about the same and the pair of them got on like a house on fire. Harry walked up Snowdon with his 5 yo cousin who he adores. The pair of them played all the way.

Top Tip #7 Create a walk with activities …

Make your walks fun. Have a mud fight, find a rope to swing on, a river (stream) to wade down, a wood to play hide and seek in: whatever you do just remember how to play. Take a camping stove and a pan and have a fry-up in the woods – my kids love egg and bacon banjos (sandwiches) cooked in the woods. Maybe make it a treasure hunt for items to bring back home. Or, take a magnifying glass, hunt out bugs and insects to look at. Take a pen knife and collect acorns, flowers or leaves for dissection on the go. Give them your phone or an old camera and create a photography competition. (For Sheffield and London families – try these free orienteering courses we’ve set up for you). Read Family Friendly Adventure Walks With Children.

In essence, make it fun

Kids love spending time with their parents. Walks can be a great way for all of us to get off-grid and to spend some time together. And so long as you can employ a bit of imagination to keep your children’s minds busy they won’t notice anything to grumble about. Building up some strength for walking is a great investment for future walks, adventures and all round well being. Have a great walk!