Monday, November 19, 2012

Fun ways to motivate children to take long walks

This is one in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection. Ariadne has offered me some much-needed suggestions for encouraging my children to keep on walking, and I'm so pleased to pass them on to you as well.

Guest post by Ariadne of Positive Parenting Connection

When my sons were just 1 ½ and 3 years old, we lived near a town forest with many walking paths, a river, and some fields to play in. One of our favorite activities was going for a treasure hunt in the forest. Spending time walking through paths, climbing over fallen trees, throwing rocks in the river, and then having a snack all while dressed up as pirates was not only fun but it fostered a great habit of walking everywhere!

Walking has just always been something that we do as a family, but there were certainly times when one, two, or all three of the kids just did not want to walk any further, or did not want to leave the house, and other times there was some whining or frustration involved…. Over time we have figured out ways to make taking family walks something that is enjoyed by all of us. My children are now 6, 4, and 2 years old, and they have become quite used to walking, just about everywhere. These are some of the ideas that have worked for us:

Make it fun.

Collecting rocks in the river, going on a treasure hunt with a map and everything, making up a nature scavenger hunt are all great ways to keep the children totally captivated, interested, and happy to keep on walking. For a simple scavenger hunt, for example, we have drawn pictures of things we think we might be able to find along our walk. Sometimes we even draw super silly things like a purple elephant, and then of course I get to pretend to just have seen it and spark up more curiosity and the need to keep walking.

A nature & numbers scavenger hunt is another great idea where you would find things in numbered groups like “three sticks, four fallen leaves, five snails” and so on. In a more urban setting these things can easily be changed to “two taxi cabs, four white house doors, three light posts” and so on!

Create a challenge.

Why not challenge the whole family to reach a certain walking goal? If the family doesn't walk much at all, start small — maybe ½ mile or 1 mile by the end of the week. On a piece of paper, create a tracking sheet and color or put a sticker to mark the distance you have achieved together. If you walk each day or every other day, try to beat the distance from the day before.

Tracking minutes is another idea, for example, "Today we are doing a 15-minute walk," and the next day: "Let's beat yesterday’s 15 minutes and do 20 minutes!" Ask the children how many minutes they think they can make it – often they will choose a pretty high number!

Kids in charge.

Why not invite the children to be your personal tour guide? Choose a safe place for walking like a park or beach and ask your child to lead the way – look at what they are interested in, follow their path, and let them be the ones to start and stop the walk. We did this once and ended up walking a long while around town as the kids led the way first to the playground and then to the ice cream shop (yummy!) and then back near the river and then finally home!

Focus on landmarks.

This past summer we had a guest child stay with us for three weeks. She was 8 years old and at first wasn't very fond of our daily walks with the dogs. We started keeping track of the landmarks along the way and each day letting her know what was further ahead to be discovered. After the first week, going for our walks was one of her favorite activities.

Plan ahead.

One time we planned on going to a café at the park; we walked a really long while only to get there and the café was closed. Oh the whining, the crying, the thirst, and the disappointment was terrible! After that I learned!! Now I make an effort to plan better and bring plenty of snacks along or double check that the place we are headed will actually be open. If we are taking a really long walk, I also like to bring a travel first aid kit, which has been helpful when we had wasp stings and blister emergencies.

For my two-year-old daughter who still gets a bit tired faster than the rest of the family, we still tend to bring the Ergo carrier, too, just to have that option of carrying her for awhile to rest.

When all else fails…

If we are out walking and one of the kids starts to meltdown, we try to find ways to meet their needs — for rest, food, or something interesting to explore. Sometimes a bit of distraction like pointing out animals, bugs, and landmarks can help. Other times a piggyback ride or a race against mom or dad is a good way to get through the last bit of the walk.

We also love telling stories or answering questions as we walk – actually, I think some of the most wonderful family conversations have been on these family walks.

What is your favorite thing to do with your family when out for a walk?

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Ariadne Brill from Positive Parenting ConnectionAriadne Brill is a certified positive discipline parenting educator. She is the author of Positive Parenting Connection, a resource for gentle parenting and positive yet effective discipline. She has three children, loves chocolate and long walks, and is passionate about helping parents and children create harmony at home. Connect with Ariadne at the Positive Parenting Connection Facebook page for daily inspiration, ideas and resources.


mothersson2002 said...

Wonderful ideas.There's geocashing too.

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