A new survey has revealed that while watching TV and DVDs are the most common way for parents and children in the UK to spend time together, families do actually want to spend more time together enjoying the outdoors. The National Trust study found that one in five kids – and more than a third of parents – would like to be spending more time together outdoors. And, in particular, more than quarter of eight to 11-year-olds and almost a half of parents want to spend more time with their parents “just going for a walk”.
But walking hasn’t always been the easiest of family activities to pull off. If you mention the words “let’s go for a walk” to many kids they will groan and pull a very frowny face. Ironically, once you’re out on a family walk, parents and children alike often immensely enjoy themselves. Really, it’s the pulling on the walking boots and jackets and going out the front door that can be the biggest hurdle between going for a family walk – and not.
Here we bring you a guide to encouraging your children to go for a family walk.
Don’t say “walk”: Instead of using the word ‘walk”, suggest you’re going on an adventure or outing. As in, “We’re off on an adventure to a local woodlands or playpark.”
Treats work: Take snacks or a picnic with you on your family adventure. You could tell the kids that there will be a surprise treat when they get to the top of a hill, or a snack treat for every five things that they collect, for example, five different fallen leaves, five autumnal nature items or spotting five different birds.
Keep it short: Children will need to build up their fitness and they do have a shorter attention span than adults. To begin with, make your family walks – sorry adventures! – less than an hour.
Go at their pace: Be prepared to go at their pace, stopping to play and looking at things on the way.
Warm and comfortable: Like adults, children also need good quality walking kit that keeps them warm and dry. Always carry extra layers with you in a rucksack for times when they need more warmth. In the summer, remember peaked hats and sun cream, while in the winter remember woolly hats and gloves.
Let them feel grown-up: Giving kids a rucksack to carry themselves will allow them to think they re being grown up. This also means they can carry their own snacks and a bottle of water, which saves you the extra weight!
Snap happy: Give the kids a camera, or use their mobile phone cameras, and encourage them to keep a picture diary of their walk.
Bring a friend: Children will always be happier to walk if they have a friend along, or the dog. Look out, too, for guided family walks in your area. You’ll find that it’s a case of the more the merrier.
Plan a treasure hunt: Ask the children to collect a range of listed items. The list could include fallen leaves, chestnuts, other tree nuts and seeds, cones, small stones, shells etc.
Use a map and compass: Choose a simple countryside route and get the kids to navigate. The basics of using a map and compass are easy to learn and they will forget about all the walking as they navigate you from once grid reference to another.