Do your children hate going on walks? It can be a nightmare with some children, they would rather stay indoors than take some fresh air! Maybe they might prefer to go to the playpark, which is great for them, but sometimes as adults we just want to get out and go for a walk! Now often, walks with children can prove to be a trial. So how can we do this without it becoming an argument or having fractious, cranky or moaning children along the way?
On holiday in Wales one year, we decided to take a walk along the coastal path to a secluded and little-known beach, for the walk, a picnic and the adventure. There was no access to this beach by road and it was about three miles away from our holiday cottage. With four foster children in tow, the youngest being only four years old, the walk could have been quite a challenge for some, so we had to make it interesting along the way.
We did this by getting them to 'spot' things they saw and playing games.
Here are some ideas to try. Ask things as you walk, such as:
Who can see three different birds? (Where? How are they different.)
How many types of animals can we see spot?
How many things can you see that are moving?
How many red things can you see?
A really good one was,
“Be still and listen quietly for 2 minutes and then we can all tell each other how many different sounds we heard!” This is an excellent one for keeping a child calm, grounded and in the moment. Especially if you then let each child tell you what they heard in turn and see who noticed the most! It really encourages awareness, and an interest in nature and their surroundings. The 2 minutes can be less for younger children or more for older ones!
If we are in the countryside, we can teach them about nature and animals. We can collect things along the way. Leaves, twigs, pebbles. Children will collect anything and surprisingly enough they will also carry it themselves if they want it enough. Unless you become a pack mule - which I don’t! They won’t moan or complain, even when carrying pockets full of heavy stones, if they have a goal in mind.
We collect things we can draw when we return, or to use in artwork or collages.
So, our walks become interesting and entertaining for the children, whilst their attention is kept on the things around them. This makes a walk, which is healthy for our children, but often one they choose not to do, so much easier! Yes, we may not go as far or as fast - but that’s not the point!
A walk can be such a good learning experience for children if we show them how to open their eyes and minds to what they can see, what they can hear what they could find, and what they could do with these things.
In town we can look for signs, show them landmarks, teach them the green cross code, or encourage them to learn to read along the way by looking at words we see on hoardings. We might play games, ask them to spot things and give them points for the first person to do so. Things such as:
Who can see someone with an umbrella?
Who can see a bus, a taxi or a post-box?
Who will be the first to find a dog, a person carrying a newspaper , someone with a pushchair, a walking stick,…… it can be as endless as your imagination.
And they can look for one thing at a time, or more if they are older and more capable.
Remember, when children are bored or fractious, it is often the simple things that will make all the difference. I’m sure we have all been guilty of dragging our children from pillar to post in order to get things done. Of shoving a sweet or a biscuit in their hand to keep them occupied.
Or worse still, I think, letting them play on a phone or an iPad. This may keep them quiet and there are times when we have to do this, I know. But surely this is not helping them in the greater scheme of things? Trying to get things done with children in tow is hard sometimes, but it rarely helps if they are not engaged and our simple errands can take longer, dealing with the fallout, if we don’t make the trips informative or fun!
Sometimes we are all too guilty of giving our children too much. Too much in the material sense, and not enough of the simplicity of our time and in providing the opportunity for them to be curious, creative and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Sometimes we expect them to be on the go all the time and never teach them how to be “ok with doing nothing” or to be able to be creative with everyday things around them. We all need to be able to deal with being bored or to find ways to fill our time. To be ok in our own skin! And being able to be creative is part of this too.
I truly believe that the simple things in life are often the best, and certainly they can be far less costly - in more ways than one!