“Why don’t we go for a nice family walk?” Sure, you’d LOVE to go for a nice walk…but when you’ve got a young child in tow, it’s not that straightforward. Babies and young toddlers are easy enough to deal with – pop them in a pram, sling or carrier and away you go. But how can you encourage slightly older children to walk any distance without too much stress?
Walking is a great activity to do as a family – it’s free, keeps you fit and gets you out in the fresh air – and it can be frustrating when your child isn’t as enthusiastic about it as you are. Over the last year or so, it’s a challenge my husband and I have faced time and time again. Attempts to walk to the park, stroll down the beach or ramble through the countryside have been met with tantrums, whines and sit-down protests. Through trial and error, we have picked up a few tips and tactics…
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Although I always thought I dressed my child appropriately for the outdoors, it took a disastrous outing to Macclesfield Forest one winter’s day to realise I’d got it wrong. Even though I’d dressed C in several layers, including scarf, hat, gloves and wellies – it wasn’t enough. Little kids can be really sensitive to the temperature and elements. Think double (or even triple) socks, and an additional rain suit over the top of a coat to help keep them toasty.
Wellies can also be an issue. Yes, they’re great to keep feet dry, but if you’ve walked any distance in wellies you’ll know they’re not that comfy and can sometimes hurt. Ten years ago at a very wet and muddy Glastonbury, my wellies caused painful blisters and rubbed some of my skin away – yuck and ouch. Make sure socks and clothing are fit in to wellies to avoid chafing, always have some emergency plasters and take a spare pair of comfy trainers in case you need to swap footwear.
2: Hide and seek
I have to give my husband credit for this one – there is no better way to keep our three year old moving than by playing hide and seek. And in this version of the game, you’re only allowed to hide behind something up ahead along the route you’re taking. Our son can happily run around playing this game for ages. As well as helping you get to your destination, it also helps kids burn off more energy.
Meet up with friends who have children and go for walks with them – the little ones help to keep each other entertained along the way. We recently did this and ended up walking for about three hours, which is a lot longer than we would have managed if we’d gone on our own.
4: Don’t just walk
Skip, jump, climb, roll down hills, wade in streams, skim stones, balance on fallen tree trunks, hunt for treasure, play I spy, tell stories, sing songs… there are loads of ways you can make walks more fun for kids to keep them going for longer.
5: Take some wheels
Scooters or bikes can help young children travel distances faster – but be prepared to carry them if they get fed up of them.
6: Start small
Don’t be too over ambitious with how far you can walk when you’ve got young children; start small and build up from there. C is now three and a half and when planning walks we tend to go for between one and three miles, depending on the weather, the type of walk and his mood. Steep hills, rocky terrains or sandy beaches can tire out little legs more quickly so bear that in mind.
If all else fails, the promise of an ice cream at the end of the walk always seems to work.
8: Give up
OK, so I wouldn’t normally encourage quitting. But sometimes, even with the best intentions and careful planning, a walk just isn’t going to happen. If your child still isn’t feeling it despite all your tried and tested tactics, don’t force it. The aim is to make walking an enjoyable past time for all the family – not a form of punishment or torture!
I’d love to hear your experience of walking with young children. What are your top tips?