How To Make Walking Enjoyable For Kids
Going for a walk with the kids is a great way to get the whole family moving and away from the iPad or TV screen, but getting them to put on their sneakers or walking boots is often easier said than done.
With obesity on the rise in the US, regular exercise is key to a healthy childhood and, as parents, we need to do everything we can to get our children active. And walking is one way to do just that. However, the beauty of a good old walk is that it is not just about keeping fit, it’s about spending time enjoying and having fun in the fresh air. So, if your youngsters roll their eyes or groan when you suggest a family hike, then now’s the time to take a different tack.
We look at five top ways to make walking much more enjoyable for kids and help you get some quality family time away from the TV and in the great outdoors.
1. Reframe The Idea Of ‘Going On A Walk’
Whet their appetite from the get-go by really selling your planned time outdoors. Instead of just calling it a walk, invite them to join you on an adventure, or ask them to come exploring with you. Outline some exciting activities that will directly appeal to them – go hunting for sticks to whittle, walk to the lake to skim some stones or go searching for a great place to make a den. Also give the walk an ‘end game’ – whether that’s a picnic in the den you plan to build or in the woods you are heading for or even a delicious hot chocolate in the park café – and you have a mission rather than an aimless amble as well as a motivated child, all ready and waiting in their outdoor shoes!
2. Be Little Collectors
Going on a walk or hike with kids should be much more than yomping from A-B, you should introduce activities that keep the youngsters engaged and entertained along the way. One of the best ways to do this is to introduce some sort of ‘treasure’ hunt.
We’re not suggesting you lay a trail of treasure along the way but rather make the most of the nature around you. Make a list of /things for your kids to find and tick off along the way – you can make it based on a single color, types of objects or items beginning with a certain letter for example. Or turn your brood into a band of little collectors, searching for seasonal items that can make a nature table or an art session when you get back home. And let’s not forget technology – take your smartphone or digital camera and get the kids to document their walk and create a cool online picture scrapbook.
3. Go On A Bug Hunt
Appeal to the grubby nature of your little ones by turning your family walk into a good old bug hunt. Whether it’s a walk in the park or a hike out on the trail, nature’s little creepy crawlies are an enticing way to keep the kids entertained. Give them a list of five top bugs to find and pack a magnifying glass in your backpack so you can all get up close and personal with the tiny critters you may find. Look for ants, spiders, beetles, centipedes, even butterflies and flying insects and get a pocket book on insects so you can turn it all into a fun learning experience.
4. Turn It Into An Obstacle Course
Up the exercise and fun quota on the family walk by turning your natural surroundings into an awesome obstacle course! Rocks, tree trunks, streams, boulders, sand dunes, forest hill tracks – Mother Nature has some of the best obstacles for kids of all ages to clamber, jump and climb over. The urban park is also a good place to create an obstacle course – challenge them to a timed run between park benches, jump over every other crack in the sidewalk or the reach the bottom branches of a tree. Anything that gets their heart-rate up, their body moving and increases the giggles can only be a good thing.
5. Nurture Your Little ‘Eco Warriors’
With kids today so much more environment-savvy, turning your walk into a nature clean up can add a whole new dimension to your family walk. Whether it is to the beach or forest, park or around the block, see each walk with the kids as chance for you all to do your bit and help to clean up. Keep it safe of course – pack some key essentials such as gloves, litter pickers and empty garbage bags into your walking rucksack – then head out with your little eco warriors. You can also double up a beach walk and clean up with a chance to go rock-pooling and exploring the marine life on the shoreside.
Once your garbage bags are full, and you are back home after your walk, go through your clean up booty and see what you can recycle – and log the amount of litter you have prevented going to landfill. Now break out the cookies and reward your little eco warrior for a job well done.
Leave Them On A High – So They Want To Do It Again!
If you’ve got it right and your walk (and distance) has matched the ages of your kids, then they should be happy and nicely tired as well as satisfied at the end. Keep the energy going by chatting about what they have just seen and done. Now sow the seeds for more walking ‘expeditions’ – you don’t want them to think this is a one off – and ask where they would like to go next. Big up the fun you will all have or set another challenge and you’ll have them setting out their walking boots or high tops on the porch, ready and waiting for their next walking adventure!
- Taking Fun Walks With Your Kids – VeryWellFamily