A big hit with the adults, not so much with the children, family walks have become a weekly occurrence in our household. When we first tentatively approached our children with the suggestion of a walk in the countryside we were met with a fair amount of opposition and protests. But after a lot of trial and a lot more error, I have put together a few handy tips that have all but eliminated the complaining on our walks.
- Have a route planned
It might be tempting to summon the spirit of Captain Scott and set off gung-ho into the countryside, but with reluctant children in tow, some planning is advisable. The internet is full of suggestions for child-friendly walks searchable by area or type (see links below). Local libraries are another great source with plenty of books full of ideas. An advantage of using a route that someone else has researched is that the author will often give advice on where to park, where you can find refreshments, toilets and local points of interest.
Bonus tip: be aware that the walk might take longer than expected, especially with young children. A recent 4 mile walk took us 3 hours because our toddler wanted to walk most of it.
In-walk entertainment has become essential for us. We have tried various games like ‘I Spy’ and finding-games like who can find the strangest leaf, biggest stick etc. Sometimes at the start of the walk we’ll each guess how many people, or dogs, or horses, or something else random we’ll see on the walk and that keeps the kids entertained all the way round. The real winner for us has been a spotter chart. We make a list of all the things that we might see on the walk, I will add a Mock-Tudor house from the inter-war years and my daughters will add poo, then they will try to tick them off on the walk.
Bonus tip: small prizes such as an ice cream at the end of the walk if they’ve completed the chart is a good extra incentive.
- Let children help with map-reading
This may seem like a terrible idea but the emphasis is on the “help”, don’t let them do it all themselves unless they are highly proficient at map reading. I find that if our children can see where they are on the route then they are much happier about walking and it solves the problem of the endless, “Are we nearly there yet?”. It also gives them a sense of achievement and bragging rights if they know how far they have been.
Bonus tip: apps such as Strava can be an added incentive so they can see how far they have been and try to beat previous distances.
- Snacks, snacks, and more snacks
The importance of snacks can never, ever, be underestimated. Make sure they are favourites; we usually take chocolate biscuits which the toddler isn’t allowed so we have to wait until he’s in the buggy then we all sneakily walk behind the buggy munching the good snacks so he can’t see us. We also time our walks over lunchtime so we can have a well-deserved picnic half-way round giving everyone a chance to recharge.
Bonus tip: snack use should be strategic – give out a snack at the top of the hill rather than at the bottom or you may never get to the top.