This week … Get Your Kids Walking

You’re looking for family friendly walks for your children? Well they’re already right there on your doorstep. Read on for some top, tried and tested ideas, to make walking fun for your kids to do.

Children walking (running) in Sheffield’s Rivelin Valley

children out walking in the countryside

Tip #1 Gaffa tape your kids waterproof trousers over their wellies and wade along a stream or a river

There was a time when I had my two youngest boys three days week under my care for daddy-day-care. Harry would have been one and Patrick 3 and we had this dog that didn’t care for my problems, and that wanted and needed exercising, every day. So pretty much ever since the kids could walk we used to head to the nearby Rivelin Valley for an “Adventure Walk”.

This would comprise me applying gaffa tape over the kids’ waterproof trousers taping the trousers to their wellies, so in effect making waders. We’d then walk down the hill (easy) all of about 200m to a stream which the boys would then wade along kicking water as they went. If the boots leaked (and they always did at some point) they’d shout out “it leaks!”. The stream was a good 400m long – so by the end of this we’d covered the best part of half a mile. At the end of the stream there is a small waterfall, which we would traditionally stand at the top of, kicking water down. Kicking water off the top of something high is fun.

After all the wet stuff – they’d be fairly wet. So I always brought a flask of hot chocolate, some fruit and a chocolate biscuit. Finally we’d cover the last 400m back to the car up the third track playing hide and seek. Now we might only have walked 1km but for them that was some feat. It’d take us a good hour and a half, and with plenty of stick throwing the hound would be happy with this too.

Whatever you do make your walks fun and the kids won’t even know they’re growing and developing their walking legs.

Tip #2 In the summer – go for a wild swim

There’s a lot of fun in going for a walk on a hot summer’s day, having a picnic, and jumping in a river. If you can, plan to do the lion-share of the walk before lunch so that you can spend more time splashing around and enjoying the water. For non-swimming children simply find a spot for paddling/damn building etc.

Tip #3 Don’t walk over bridges, walk under them

Sometimes walks lead you over bridges that cross a river – get in the river instead! See bridges as an opportunity for an adventure – so do something different, and get in the river that flows underneath.

Tip #4 Find some mud to walk through – bare-footed

Go to your nearest woods one day after some rain. Find some really good bog, take off your shoes and socks and enjoy the sensation of walking through mud. (And then start a mud fight!).

Tip #5 Take a camp stove

On my birthday last year my missus wanted to know what ‘GREAT PLAN’ I had this year to celebrate the day, with the kids included. It was raining out but I decided that an adventure walk would work a treat. So we packed some eggs, bacon, tomato sauce and a loaf of bread. I also packed an old army poncho, some string, a camp stove and a frying pan. It was still raining, my missus looked dubious, but it was my birthday so she went along with it. We walked maybe a mile and then established camp in the woods. We pulled up some logs to sit on and erected the shelter. We fried up the eggs and bacon and each had our bacon and egg banjos under the shelter. The kids loved it … And so did the missus!

Tip #6 Set a hash

Set a trail for your kids to follow. You can set a trail marked sparingly with dots of plain flour (which is PH neutral and will quickly disappear in a day or two). At junctions draw a circle of flour which indicates that there are choices of ways to go. Two consecutive dots would mean that is the right way to go. One dot or a cross might show a false trail. I once set this to take our kids the two miles to the local park. Once we got there they enjoyed the playground for another hour or so, before I drove them home. (Car was already there).

Tip #7 Try orienteering

Google “permanent orienteering course” for your area and see what comes up. Or just Google “orienteering events near me”. This is essentially an opportunity for your kids to go on an organised treasure hunt that someone else has already set up. (Here are some that I have set up for Sheffield parks).

Tip #8 Plan a walk that has interesting terrain

It doesn’t take much for your kids to create their own adventure – so long as you can give them the raw ingredients. These begin with where you take them. A forest is great for playing hide and seek. Rivers and streams are great for swimming or paddling. The coast is great for rock-pooling. Dartmoor, or the Peak District are great for scrambling over and under boulders. Just look at the area around you with your children’s eyes and see the potential for an adventure!

Tip #9 Never walk up a mountain: climb a mountain!

This last summer we took our kids camping in the Lake District for ten days. The weather was far from glorious, but it was good enough at least for us to manage a couple of mountain days out. (Our kids were aged 5, 7 and 9). Amazingly they managed to summit Helvelyn (via Striding Edge) in the first week and Scafel Pike (via Cockly Pike Ridge) in the second week. A key ingredient to this was to break the route up so that it included some hands on scrambling. Note: scrambling, while technically not that physically hard to do, is potentially the most dangerous mountain sport you can do – so be sure to know what you’re doing or to hire a guide that does. (Read: What is Scrambling?)

Tip #10 Tell your kids a story!

This might seem hard to do, but you don’t even have to be that creative. It’s incredibly motivational and really quite easy to do. This is how you do it, think of a story you know and plagiarise it in your own words with your kids names in! Just think about all the films you loved as a kid that your kids have never seen. My kids are fascinated with the idea of time travel, cue “Back to the Future” and literally hours of story telling. If you can walk while holding your kids’ hands, telling them a story the miles will fly by! This is possibly the best tip of these ten.

In essence, make it fun

Kids love spending time with their parents. Walks can be a great way for all of us to get off-grid and to spend some time together. And so long as you can employ a bit of imagination to keep your children’s minds busy they won’t notice anything to grumble about. Building up some strength for walking is a great investment for future walks, adventures and all round well being. Have a great walk!