Making Family Walking Fun For Everyone
When it comes to family-friendly activities, it doesn’t get more accessible than walking. From multi-day family hikes to an afternoon stroll in the park, with minimal kit you can keep the whole family active and connected to nature, even on your own doorstep. Walking is an easy way to maintain everyone’s physical and mental health, and spend some quality time together too. But how can you avoid having to drag everyone from their screens and making it a chore? Here are a few tips from the experts that’ll have them all itching to get out there and make walking fun for all the family.
One of the best ways to get the kids walking without them realising how far they’ve gone is to turn it into a treasure hunt. Why not make your own list of things to look out for, take pictures of or collect along the way? It’s a great way to encourage children to look more closely at their surroundings and can even be made educational too, especially if they’ve got to spy things they might not have heard of before. They can work individually (there’s nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry) or as a team to help them learn how to work together and share knowledge, particularly good if you’ve got children of very different ages.
Similar to a treasure hunt, but with a specific focus on nature. You can give the kids a list of creepy crawlies, birds and mammals to look out for or, if they’re a bit older, why not get them to take photos or draw what they see, and encourage them to do some research when they get home to find out more about their sightings? If you want to make things more exciting, get them a magnifying glass or fishing net so they can take a closer look at the wildlife they find, and teach them the importance of caring for all creatures and their habitats too.
Make it competitive
Whilst walking is for everyone and isn’t really about who can walk the fastest or furthest, sometimes you need a little edge to keep everyone engaged and entertained. Why not split into two teams with two different routes, and race to the final destination? Alternatively, use one of our other ideas such as a treasure hunt and turn it into a competition to see who can spot the most trees, wildlife or landmarks?
Find art in nature
Spending time in nature is a feast for the eyes and it can be very rewarding to photograph or draw the wonders we spot along the way. This is something everyone can get involved with whether you’re a keen photographer with a young apprentice, passionate artist with a creative prodigy, or a clueless amateur who simply takes joy from being outdoors! The best part is, you don’t have to be an expert or have a hidden talent; creativity is all about interpretation and expression, so encourage everyone to simply recreate what they see in whatever medium they choose. For the real littlies, take wax crayons and paper with you and do some bark rubbing, or collect leaves to do some leave wax patterns at home.
Sometimes, you just need to get from A to B but, when you’ve got a little more time on your hands, why not put the children in charge of your route? Teaching them basic navigation skills such as map reading, using a compass or taking bearings is a great way to help them feel like they have ownership of their own adventures, and prepare them for planning their own walks in the future. Designate an area and let them plan a walking route on the map – you can check it before you depart – before you head out with them at the helm, reading the map and guiding the family walk for themselves. Use landmarks to help them stay on track and check out our basics of navigating blog for some tips for getting started.
According to the Sensory Trust, it is our senses other than sight that give us meaningful and memorable experiences and help us to connect with places. Perfect for younger children or those with disabilities, sensory walks embrace senses such as sound, touch and smell to make up a picture of the route and enable walkers to connect with the environment around them in a different way. Encourage walkers to feel different textures such as bark, leaves or grass, and describe different smells or sounds. Alternatively, create a sound map, and encourage them to stop, listen and draw or write what they hear around them, drawing themselves at the centre of the page and focussing on where each sound is coming from.
Find out more at sensorytrust.org.uk/about/sensory
Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt for the digital generation, so perfect for families who are big on technology but still want to get outdoors, explore new places and do a bit of problem solving. A geocache is a small treasure box hidden somewhere outdoors and geocachers try to find them using GPS coordinates or ‘waypoints’. So, all you need is a GPS-enabled device and your walking shoes, before checking out your nearest cache on geocaching.com and heading out to find your ‘treasure’. With over 3 million active geocache locations worldwide, there’s bound to be one in your local area just waiting to be found.
Walking at dusk or night is a great way to see your local area in a completely new light (literally!) and can be an exciting new adventure for everyone involved. For those with young children, this is best done in the winter months when it gets dark earlier, but it can also be a fun activity to do with older children who like a new challenge and will enjoy being out after dark! Don your headtorches and make sure you’ve got a very clear idea of your route, using lit paths and landmarks to help you get your bearings between darker sections. When you can’t see as well, your other senses are heightened, so make the most of it being quieter than the daytime and listen out for different sounds of wildlife along the way. Check out Night Walking Guide for further information.
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