Somebody asked me how I get the kids walking for the length of time that we do, and also how they walk so many miles. Initially, I thought, they just do!
But actually, there are ways in which I subconsciously, and consciously keep them interested.
Mostly, the kids walk for cake! We’ve always taken a picnic with us, wherever we go. The kids are very happy to carry their own backpacks with supplies in, and they’ve now got the novelty of their own bumbags that have a drink, some trail mix and a sweetie or 2! This keeps them going sustenance wise and it means we don’t have to stop every 5 minutes when somebody wants a drink.
Our youngest son is a toe walker, which he has had different sorts of treatment for, and our daughter has hyper mobility and low muscle tone. This means that although day to day they are usually fine, longer walks can take their toll. We make sure we stretch before and after we hike, which helps loosen everybody up and keeps them going for longer.
We have a myriad of games that we play to keep morale high.
- I spy
- Alphabetical games. One person starts with ‘I went to the shop and bought’… something beginning with A, The next person carries on with A+B, the next person has to remember A+B and C and so on.
- What am I? A descriptive game.
- Trying to make each other laugh.
- My children have a game where they are in the ‘changing world’. Everything is opposite!
Most of these games involve a bit of thinking, which keeps the brain sharp and it also keeps us communicating. The outdoors brings us so much closer as a family, and this is the part I enjoy the most. That we chat and laugh and play together.
Poles help keep the kids moving. They’re less likely to fall over and have an accident or 2. Which my kids are usually capable of! They can lean on them, and, as most kids probably do, play with them too. It adds as an extra distraction to trudging through miles and miles of footpaths and helps with stability on rockier ground. It boosts confidence so kids can do things on their own without too much help from mum and dad.
When we go to our local trails, the kids love to fill out the trail sheets and activity packs that come with some of them. I have made one of my own that you can print off and check off as you go along. It keeps kids interactive with the outdoors and gives them something to hike for. You can make your own prize for the end if your little ones manage to complete it. I recommend cake!
Imagination and Research
Anywhere in the U.K. (and beyond!) will have a bit of history or a story to the area. I like to seek out a few facts of where we will be visiting or an odd bit of narrative that we can chat about. From there, the imagination takes over. Caves come with cavemen and dinosaurs, waterfalls have giants that roam. Bridges are home to trolls, and castles/ruins accommodate kings and queens, where knights battle for victory.
You can make up stories to fuel any young mind and as the miles begin to disappear underfoot, the kids will hardly realise.
If there are no plans to return home, there is no rush. No stress for Mum and Dad and no what if’s for the kids. My kids are awful for the phrase ‘when we get home, can I…..?’. If they know they’re not going home, there’s nothing else to look forward to, other than the sense of adventure.
Camping out, or even just stopping at a B&B feels like a mini holiday and so the kids will be more responsive than if it’s back to the mundane chores and homework.
I know this isn’t feasible every time, but if you’re planning a long hike, I would recommend finding somewhere to stop for the night. Or even wild camping. We will be doing our first wild camp later this month, so I’ll let you know how it goes!
Go in a Group
Sometimes, the same ugly mugs can get boring. Add a few friends into the mix, or some mini Hikerkidz and it become much more exciting. Steal some family members, or join some walking groups. Kids are around the same people 24/7. New faces are exciting and they can make friends along the way.
Some other ideas to spice up a walk include:
- Make the kids the leader. Get them to study the map and lead the way for a while. They feel productive and teaches them navigation at the same time.
- Let the kids take some photos. Everything looks different through a child’s eyes.
- If you come across water, let the kids jump, splash and skim rocks.
All in all, kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. They bounce back real quick so even if they are having a grumble along the way, as soon as something catches their attention, a second, third or even fourth wind can be accomplished.
Remember, there will be bad days. We’ve had to turn around a few times, mostly when weather or visibility is poor and they’ve got nothing to look at. You just have to accept it at the time, and try to not get down about it.
But there WILL always be a next time.
If you’ve got any hints or tips to add, please let me know!