Top tips for family walking
Reaching the top of her first Munro, 12-year-old H is all smiles. But her face, just a few hours earlier as she set off to ascend Ben Chonzie, in the Scottish Highlands, couldn’t have been more contrasting. The sullen look over breakfast and the whines of: “But do I have to?”, “Why can’t I stay home?”, “What’s the point in walking” are now forgotten and atop of the 931m summit, H talks excitedly about the views, the fun of the walking and talking and how lovely it is to be out with her dog.
No doubt every parent has experienced similar. While the grown ups are keen to do something active with the family, the kids think it’s boring. But walking doesn’t have to be dull. It can be fun, exciting and ultimately rewarding.Remarkably, most parents find that once the kids are kitted out in suitable clothing and strolling through the countryside they sddenly realsie that it's a lot more fun than they had imagined.
At the end of the Munro day last October, H was tired but thrilled with herself. She had been the only child in a group of adults walking the Munro that day and she was proud of her achievements. Months later, she still smiles at the thought of how far she walked that day.
How to make a walk less boring
Walking for walking’s sake might not always appeal to children, so how about turning the walk into a bit of an adventure? Here we bring you foue great ideas for fun family walks.
Go to the top: A steady ascent of a big hill brings numerous rewards including fabulous views of the surrounding landscape and the inevitable descent! Tell the kids that you’ll have a picnic or a snack at the top and the first one to reach the summit wins a special treat. If you can take a dog (your own or borrow one you know will enjoy the walk) all the better. With a dog running ahead on a hill, the kids are sure to be encouraged to chase after it.
Scavenger walk: Before setting off for your walk, give your children a checklist of items that they need to find while walking. This could include leaves from trees, a Highland cow, something black and white, a smooth pebble. Or you could theme the list to be 20 things that are different shades of green.
Family geocaching: The official version of Geocaching is conducted via on-line geocache sites and requires players to hunt for “caches” according to coordinates on a GPS. You can re-create a simple family-friendly style geocache by planning ahead and hiding a few items somewhere along your chosen walking route. You then give your children a map of the area and the grid co-ordinates of where you’ve hidden the items. Children will have fun reading the map and a compass to locate these "treasures”.
Taking the lead: Most children will enjoy basic map reading. Show them how to use a map and compass, and set them the task of guiding you to the next knoll or a fixed point in the distance. You’ll need to explain how to pace distances, but we’re assuming that if you’re out in the hills with the kids you’ll know this basic navigation yourself.
Treasure Trails: This is a fun way to take in a walk and find out more about the area. There are more than 550 official Treasure Trail locations in the UK and you simply need to sign up to the treasure trails website and then buy your chosen treasure hunt. The idea is to hunt for answers to clues about points of interest en route and then to solve the “mystery". Walks are around two miles long but take longer than average walking pace as you hunt for answers. The treasure trails can be in town or in the countryside.
Great outdoor clothing for children
Like adults, the children will want to stay warm and dry when out on a family walk. It doesn’t need to cost the earth to kit them out in good quality children’s outdoor clothing. The minimum would be a pair of walking boots or shoes and a waterproof jacket.
Why not get them to carry their own rucksack, filled with snacks, a magnifying glass, a compass, a map and a drink? If the weather looks dodgy, pop a pair of waterproof trousers into the rucksack for the child and don’t forget hats and gloves on cooler days.
Do you have any tips for happy family walking?