Fall is right around the corner. Before you know it, we’ll be bundled up in sweaters and hoodies, baking pumpkin muffins, and preparing for the holidays. Now is the time to soak up every last bit of summer, and get OUTSIDE with our children and families!
A former colleague of mine just shared with me a study that discussed how so many children spend more time inside a “virtual” world than they do outside. Our world has definitely changed, with more children relying on “screen time” for entertainment. When we were children, the majority of our time was spent outside. We rode our bikes, played on the playground, and invented games to play. We were creative. We were imaginative. We went out after breakfast and stayed out until dinner. We were PLAYING.
As a parent, I want to encourage my children to play outside and get fresh air on a daily basis. If it’s not pouring – they need some time outdoors. Being surrounded by nature is good for the soul.
My children and I have discovered how much we love walking together. Walking with children is a simple and cost-effective activity that has so many benefits. In addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle and a love of the outdoors, you and your children will create lasting memories.
Here are a few tips to enjoy taking a walk with your kids:
1. Change of Scenery:
Always walk around the neighborhood? Mix it up! Check with your local Parks & Rec. department to find out which trails and/or parks with trails are in your area. Stay close to home one time. Drive to another part of town (and then walk!) the next.
2. Walk TO Somewhere:
If you live within walking distance to a store, park, school, etc. walk there instead of driving. Walk to the local school and enjoy the playground. Walk to the store and buy a juice or water before heading back. Walk to a friend’s house.
3. Be Prepared
I find it best to carry a backpack when I go walking with the kids. In my backpack I make sure to have water bottles, a light snack, diapers and wipes (if applicable), band-aids, sunscreen, etc.
Always encourage your kids to use the bathroom prior to leaving the house. If you arrive at your destination and there is a bathroom, have everyone in your group try to use it, prior to continuing your walk.
4. Be Comfortable
Make sure your child is wearing comfortable shoes. Walking in flip-flops or shoes with a heel is not a good idea! When walking on a trail, opt for closed-toed shoes, and always choose shoes with a sturdy sole.
Dress your child in layers, or tie a jacket or sweatshirt around their waist.
5. Be Protected
When the sun is shining (and especially if you are walking in peak sun hours), a hat is always a good idea for kids. Keep the hot sun off of their delicate heads and faces.
Make sure to apply sunscreen prior to leaving the house, and take it with you for re-application.
Be aware that you will encounter bugs, bees, and the like when you walk – especially on nature trails. (My son was just stung last week on a walk!) Especially if you are dealing with allergies, be prepared with your epi-pen or other protection.
It is always a good idea to let someone know where you are going to be – especially if you will be walking in a remote area. Often, heavily forested areas, or more remote nature areas do not have cell service. Better to err on the side of caution.
6. Take Breaks
When walking with kids, be ready to stop and rest. Stop BEFORE your little ones start to complain of being tired. Stop and enjoy the scenery. Read the signposts. Take pictures of the view. Look for animals. Sit down and share a snack. Keep them rested and they are more likely to enjoy every step of the journey. (And go at their pace!)
7. Teachable Moments
Talk about nature. Discuss animals. Talk about habitats. Inspect plants. Point out landmarks. Ask your child questions and answer theirs. Nature is a HUGE catalyst for learning! Take advantage!!
There is something magical about being shoulder to shoulder with your kids. Kids tend to open up when walking. As they walk beside you in a new setting, they let things out….they share and open up. They ask questions and talk about what they see and notice. Take advantage of those precious moments and really listen to what they say. I so often am distracted at home – by work, the computer, or household duties….It’s easy to “listen” and give “uh-huh” type of answers. Outside, the distractions are removed, and there is nothing but US. I’ve learned to really use that special time and pay attention to the words of my children.
Have fun walking and experiencing nature with your kids.
If you are looking for something to do while on your walk, check out my Nature Scavenger Hunt.