LOCKDOWN UPDATES 2020 edit, 24th March
SOCIAL DISTANCING MATTERS. DO IT OR LOSE IT.
Outdoors = mental wellbeing & exercise so PLEASE practice social distancing: 2m APART so we can all still go outside. If not, the Govt will stop ALL outdoor activity – Boris Johnson announced this yesterday. Please get outside as much as possible but PLEASE be responsible and safe.
EDIT 12th May – Since the onset of Coronavirus back in March and with isolation and lockdown around the world, I’ve amended some suggestions to cater for these crazy social distancing times – highlighted in red.
By now it’s probably apparent that my main way to get into the wild is walking, whether to the shops or up a mountain. It’s usually with a dog and, for the last 8 years, a child.
If you walked before children you will probably take your kids with you from a young age.
If not, but if you want your kids to enjoy walking, you may find they need encouragement for long treks especially if, as in our case, they are an only child. It can be pretty boring walking with just adults.
Even on our short daily walks from home during Coronavirus lockdown, walking can be a chore and pretty uninteresting for children.
Here are 10 simple ways to ease everyone’s pain and enjoy walking, even when your wild kids are done but the end isn’t yet in sight.
Take a Friend (or several!)
This No 1 child-walking hack works every time. Kids have double the fun, can walk double the distance and are twice as tired at the end of the day. Multiply by as many friends as you dare to invite!
LOCKDOWN 2020 – as walks with friends are no longer possible, an excellent alternative is to create a treasure trail in your neighbourhood for friends to complete.
To set one up: –
- go around your neighbourhood (maintaining social distance) working out clues
- jot the clues and the answers down
- start from your friends’ front doors and end at your own drive
- arrange a time for your friends to complete the treasure hunt
- send them the first clue at the agreed time, via mobile or email
- leave some homemade goodies, veggies from your garden or books to swap as a reward
- get your friends to do one for you in return
We used WhatsApp for ours – Caroline’s friends sent photos of the clue answers and we sent the next clue once they’d got it right. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with friends without actually seeing them!
Have an End Goal
A river or hill-walk might satisfy adults but children can need more incentive to keep going. Aiming for a waterfall, standing stones, rock art, a high peak, an old ruin, duck feeding etc increases their anticipation and interest.
LOCKDOWN 2020 – why not set a lockdown end-goal by incorporating a shorter distance walk into a kids 2.6 challenge, helping support a charity of your choice into the bargain.
I await the internet parenting community’s wrath on my head..
Bad Mummy points maybe, but bribery can positively motivate children in certain circumstances. Not the promise of money or some huge treat, and not for a walk to the end of the street. A simple reward when the end goal is achieved.
On a steep hike last year with a group of children from 18 months to 8 years, one enterprising wild Mummy friend promised her birthday chocolate cake to all those reaching the top. Every child made it and it was deeply rewarding as parents to see how proud of themselves they were as they gaped at the stunning view and pointed out landmarks (with chocolatey grins and fingers!)
Older children love learning to map read and gain a great sense of achievement from directing the group using a map, checked of course by a map-reading adult (shhh, surreptitiously if necessary to avoid hurt feelings..)
For a fun family map of the UK, check out The Great British Adventure Map.
Drinks and Snacks
Exhausted, fed up children who just ‘want to go home’ are easily re-energised with a timely snack or drink. The aforementioned chocolate cake works too! Don’t wait for the meltdown though, keep their energy up throughout the journey; we can become hypoglycemic in a third of the time outdoors. Check out the list of walking snacks in my popular article how to be the best wild parent ever.
Teddy Comes Too
Regular readers will know the importance of Otto the Bear in Caroline’s daily life, especially during her cancer (read more about childhood cancer here). If you’re taking a backpack anyway, why not take a favourite teddy, to impart encouraging cuddles when needed?
Doesn’t work for younger kids for whom it will make them tired more quickly but older children feel a great sense of responsibility with their first backpack. Choose a lightweight pack and only ask them to carry a drink and snack, and maybe the above bear if required. If they feel like a proper hiker they’re more likely to act like one even when tired.
Click the image to view on Amazon
The Right Gear
Wellies and waterproofs in the wet, flip-flops at the beach, splash suit in mud or snow. It’s common sense but can make all the difference between a happily completed walk or a final mile of screaming and wailing. I always take a change of clothes in case of mishap.
Click image to buy a waterproof splashsuit at Amazon
A bug-hunting kit or a magnifying glass is cheap and light to carry. Used only when little legs are flagging, it might help re-invigorate your bored wildling. Be prepared to stop and delay while all manner of insect life is investigated, but you might just complete the walk without tears.
Click on the images to check prices at Amazon
Old fashioned I-Spy books are a great way to maintain interest on the walk. Leave them at the start having chosen certain things to search for, take them along if you have backpack space or simply play the traditional game as walk.
Scavenger or Treasure Hunt
Create one before you go out or make up ‘missions’ as you go along to distract little ones from their tiredness and add interest to walks they might otherwise find boring. Works especially well for more ‘uninteresting’ excursions.
Cool of the Wild have printable scavenger hunt downloads here.
Whenever we go walking, parental pockets are soon bulging with accumulated rocks, sticks, shells, feathers, pine cones, you name it. Children with their own foraging bags soon learn not to collect the heavy stuff but love carrying their treasures around. Make it clear that whatever they collect is their responsibility..
Happy hiking and wild wishes for fabulously fun–filled daily walks during lockdown or isolation, but more than anything #staysafe so we can all meet up again outdoors when this pandemic is over.
More outdoor inspiration
For more fab family walks and our favourite locations check out Kids of the Wild’s walking and hiking pages
Browse The Outdoor Guide for walks near where you live.
All of these ideas are tried and tested by Kids of the Wild. What are your walking tips for keeping youngsters on the trail?