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Get the children walking

Children walking in Oxleas WoodsGet your children, or grandchildren, walking at an early age and they will develop a lasting love of the outdoors, learn about the natural world, and stay healthy.

As schools reduce time for sports and expeditions, it's more important that ever that children get active and stay active. Harness their natural energy and enthusiasm to learn about the world and they’ll be happier walking through a meadow than sitting in front of a computer game.

All it takes is a bit of planning, careful selection of the right walk using the Green Chain Route Guide, and an enterprising spirit.

Planning your Walk

Start with a short walk and build up. About 2 miles is an achievable distance for young children who can walk independently without difficulty.

When you start doing longer walks, plan a route with "emergency exits". These are points on the walk where you can take a short-cut back or re-trace your steps easily if little legs get tired or the weather turns bad. Most of the Green Chain Walk is near bus stops or train stations.

Plan your walk around interesting features. Good elements to include are interesting and visible wildlife, ruins, farms, playgrounds and model dinosaurs - not to mention ice cream stops (bribery can work wonders!)

Getting going

Don't tell children you're going for a walk. Tell them you're going to play in the forest, meet friends, explore a ruin, kick a ball or throw a frisbee... The walk should seem incidental to the activity.

Let children carry their own kit. Even toddlers can take a rucksack with a few bits and pieces to make them feel like mum or dad.

"Views are soooo boring..." Don’t expect your kids to be impressed by the big picture. Details, games and interaction with the surroundings are much more fun.

Walk with other families. Children love to walk with other kids their age, leaving parents to have grown up conversations while the children race ahead.

Give youngsters fun goals to achieve. This can work especially well with groups if you get their competitive spirit going- first to reach the top, see a bird of prey of find 3 fossils wins a prize!

Be prepared. If your kids get tired or seem unhappy, have a stock of games you can play to distract them. Treats are always good.

Activities

  1. Make sculptures

    Get your children to collect natural materials while you walk, such as autumn leaves or pine cones, and keep anything interesting you can find without having to pick or pull from the ground. When you stop for a break, use your bits and pieces to make a natural sculpture behind for others to enjoy. Parents can join in, too.

  2. Treasure hunt

    This is ideal for younger children when walking shorter routes. Simply hide treats of your choice (chocolate coins, small toys etc) along the way in undergrowth, low braches, or under rocks.

  3. I-spy

    This game is an excellent way for children to appreciate their surroundings. You can also teach them basic nature skills by I-spying common trees and plants-it certainly beats playing from your car’s back seat.

    Finally-check out the Green Chain “Cartoon Network” on this site for some fun ideas to inspire you and your family!

We'd love to hear any ideas you have about walking with children. Send tips, stories and up to two photos to this email address:

childrenswalks@greenchain.com