Having two dogs, we are a family that tends to walk a lot, but we also have two children with very different stamina levels. Our first child has always been a pretty good walker, but our four-year-old is not a fan. She will try and get out of taking part at the first mention of a walk and will often complain all the way through, but we still have dogs and we’re still a family that likes to walk so we struggle through! Here are a few things we’ve tried that help a little.
Our most successful strategy is to tell stories about the place we are walking. Near us, we have a couple of World War II bomb craters in fields and our youngest loves to hear the story about why the bombs were dropped (they were just short of Portsmouth) the story doesn’t have much to it, but yet she asks for it again and again. Likewise another location we walk is the old Roman road to London, so we talk about how there used to be no cars and people would have to spend a whole day walking to London. A little bit of research about a location brings a place alive and we find, distracts them
Find new places
We have dog walks on our doorstep so tend to walk the same old routes out of convenience and you know what, it IS boring. We find the kids will go much further without complaint if it’s a new place they are visiting. Asking in local facebook groups for recommendations of walks is often productive or a radical non-digital idea… buy an OS map and plot a route with the children on paper then it becomes an adventure for everyone.
Do a scavenger hunt
Thee are loads of free scavenger hunts which you can download, including our own which has cryptic clues you have to solve before you know what you are hunting for. Setting the kids up with a task like this will stir a little competitiveness and motivation to make it round the next corner. Download our free scavenger hunt.
Look for what the season has to offer
This is a similar idea to the scavenger hunt, but focuses on just one particular thing rather than hunting down a list. From July to September we can happily walk or miles as long as we continually feed my daughter blackberries. You can see us continually encouraging her along the path with a promise of “let’s find the next blackberry bush”. When the blackberries are all gone we use the wet weather as an excuse to look for puddles. “Come on, who can find the biggest puddle to jump in?” Wellies are of course essential for this, but we’ve also found an all-in-one puddle suit is also an excellent purchase for pre-schoolers. In the spring seek out dandelions and blow their seeds away until you find one that tells the right time!
Ride a bike
I know this isn’t strictly walking, but sometimes if the route allows a bike can help an enormous amount whilst still getting your child used to long periods of time in the outdoors. We have had great use from the balance bike we bought our son six years ago, with both kids getting a little extra help on it before their little legs could carry them further. If you are reading this post, I’m guessing that your children are probably three or above, but it’s worth mentioning that we carried all our babies and toddlers in a child back carrier like this which also helped us with walks in the early days.
Draw a simple map
If you have time before a walk draw a simple map for children to follow. You do not need to be an artist! Include obvious landmarks like buildings and the place where the car is going to be parked. If the children can see how far they are along the route it will help motivate them to carry on walking.
Get a litter picker
Litter pickers only cost a few pounds and yet will give a walk a focus for a child and they’ll be doing a great community service too. They don’t take up a lot of room either!
And finally, it’s worth saying that for children everything takes a little practice and walking is no exception. Every walk they’ll be a little older, a little more patient and a little more aware of how things work. It can and will get easier the more you do it!