Even though a daily walk might already be part of your lifestyle, bringing your kids along can be a challenge once they’ve outgrown the stroller. While there’s little doubt including your children in active outdoor activities can help them to combat obesity, connect with nature and balance excessive screen time, teaching them to enjoy long walks can, at times, be a frustrating venture.
Here, six tips for getting into a walking routine that will be enjoyable for you and your kids:
Walking for the sake of walking might seem boring to some kids. Instead, try thinking of another fun activity he or she might like, and walk to that destination. For example, it could be a waterfall at the end of a hiking trail where you can swim, a neighborhood playground or a nearby lake to feed the ducks. The walk won’t be the sole focus of the trip, and the concentration instead will be on reaching the destination. Once they build their stamina, choose more challenging adventures that increase the distance or include more difficult terrain like hills, sand or dirt.
Walking and exercising should be something fun kids look forward to and giving kids treats as a reward for doing well on a walk is a great way to positively reinforce healthy habits. This could be something as simple as extra reading time before bed, a new pair of workout clothes or a healthy frozen treat.
If your kid often gets grumpy or seems like he or she is in a bad mood during your walk, it could be from lack of energy. A great way to give them a boost is to bring a small snack and something to drink. Try taking a short break and resting at the midway point while they snack on a piece of fruit or some healthy homemade trail mix. You can even give them a few options before you leave the house, and let them pick the snack so they feel excited and invested. Or pick a favorite cafe or coffee shop for a pitstop.
If kids think of going for a walk as being a chore, they won’t want to do it. Make your walks fun by playing games along the way. This could be I-spy, where you search for different birds or insects on a hiking trail, or bringing along things like bubbles or sidewalk chalk.
The mistake a lot of grownups make is trying to get kids to speed up and walk at their pace. Even if your child tries, eventually they will tire and not be able to hold the pace. Instead of making the walk unnecessarily difficult, walk at your child’s pace. Keep the walks slow and short until they get used to the activity and adapt to the effort. If you’re consistent and make your walks a habit, they’ll eventually get faster and be able to walk longer without getting so tired.
Some kids just might not enjoy walking. But that shouldn’t keep you from your walk or including them in the time you spend outdoors. If your kid just doesn’t seem to enjoy the activity no matter what you try, have them bring along a scooter, bike or roller skates instead. You’ll get your walk in while they also enjoy an activity that promotes movement.