6 tips to stop a walk being boring

What’s in the geocache box? Our names now…

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post looks at ways to get yourself and the kids out walking. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here.

1 Feed off other’s enthusiasm
Walk to work week  runs from 14-18 May and Walk to School Week is 21-25 May 2012 which should get an extra million people (at least) out of the door and on to the pavements. If you like clocking your miles and a pedometer seems fiddly then this is great – sign up to the online calculator and you can work out how many muffins of energy you’ve used up, or how many times you’ve gone around Wembley stadium.
Verdict: Just like an i-phone running app, except it’s free.

2 Go geocaching
Yes, this is a tip from a reader of my blog (Penny) and geocaching has turned out to be a brilliant way to make a regular route more exciting, especially if you’ve got older or reluctant walkers who can be motivated by finding treasure, anywhere in the world. Recently we tried down an old railway line half a mile from our house and found two caches – both in half litre containers.

Nell, 11, thought the rubber and sharpener she took home were fabulous rewards. Lola, 13, just liked knowing new secrets about a very familiar place.
Verdict: worth joining, not least because it is brilliant for teens – and something they can do with friends too. Plus it slows down the speedy members of a walking party which helps the ones with shorter legs keep up!

3 Borrow a dog
Even for a short spin around the block, taking a pet for a walk is fun. If you have your own dog it’ll soon develop a routine – but if you borrow other people’s you get to see all sorts of doggy behaviour. Small ones can be very different in character to big, muscly creatures.

If you can’t borrow a neighbour’s dog (or mine!) you can offer to volunteer yourself as a dog walker at a charity such as Battersea Dogs Home (in London and Windsor), Woodgreen Animal Shelter, etc.
Verdict: Why limit yourself to a dog? I’ve seen people walking alpaca and ferrets on leads, and one crazy dad (mine) used to exercise a lifesize mechanical elephant. 

4 Learn a new skill
You may not eat up the miles but a stroll around the block is a great place for kids to progressively practice on their like a bike (pedal-free bike), scooter, bike with or without stabilisers, roller skates, roller blades, heelies, wobble boards or unicycles.
Verdict: Great, but to keep the price down and clutter in your home to the minimum, aim to try out a friend or neighbour’s equipment before you buy. Sometimes nurseries will lend equipment for a day or two so you can judge what’s a keeper, and what’s not.

5 Take a family challenge
Work out a route you want to travel. Could you get to granny’s by foot, or walk the whole way round your town, or the whole way down a canal path to see a friend? There are lots of long-distance footpaths and cycle routes to explore too.  Older members may fall for the pub crawl (see this Charles Dickens route around London at my aroundbritainnoplane blog), or an endurance test like the Capital Ring (a 70+ mile walk around London).
Verdict: no need to do this as a one-off, keep it ready as an idea for whenever you feel exercise is what’s needed. For Londoners I recommend the Capital Ring as when you’ve finished it Transport for London will send you a certificate, how cute is that?

Set a challenge: where are the pink and white bluebells in Norsey Wood, Essex?

6 Tell stories
Singing and chatting are time-honoured ways to eat up the miles. Turns out another way is to turn your journey into a story. Legends, ghosts, famous people are all winners (either make it up or do the research) and look out for the new trend for taking a walk with a guide who has fascinating stories about the location desgined for the curious, not just tourists.
Verdict: top for stretching your imagination. For ideas look at this US elastic city website with sensory and experiential walks – best walk title has to be “get over it” – which is all about bridges.

Over to you
What are your tips that get the kids (and anyone else in the family) outside walking?

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7 Comments on “6 tips to stop a walk being boring”

  1. hedgehoghugh Says:

    Setting ambushes. Helps if there is a bit of a gang. Split the party into two – one half has to run on ahead (it helps if you know the area well enough to avoid sudden encounters with big rivers or cliffs) and set an ambush. If there are pine cones – all the better – otherwise – just rely on a noisy charge … making the ambushed leap out of their skin …

  2. Nicky Says:

    there are some great ideas in ‘Make it Wild – 101 things to make and do outdoors’. making natural sculptures, leaf pictures, hanging leaves in trees (a good early winter one) with fishing line. We still take our eye spy books for a bit of nature spotting – you are never too old for an eye spy book!

    • nicola baird Says:

      Good point Nicky – eye spy has been much mentioned on comments from Facebook too:

      Chris ” We (my mother, my brother and I) when young, used to walk with the I-Spy books, which I loved for I-Spy trees, flowers, dogs (I became a Dog Detective – 2nd class, which caused my husband endless amusement when he heard about it), The Unusual etc. etc. etc. Do the I-Spy books still exist, I wonder? It does encourage rather competetive spirit, perhaps unfortunately!!”

      Dave “hidden alligator booby traps”

      Nicola Baird ‎”avoiding crocs is quite lively enough without having to watch out for alligator booby traps! and Chris Luxton the i-spy books are still around, and lovely.”

      Caroline “years ago when taking my little sisters for walks (London streets) we had a very long piece of thread with a sort of very tangled knot at the end which would bounce around on the pavement ages behind us and cause enormous surprise to passers by . . this provided us with hours of hilarity, we called the tangled knot Fifi, highly recommended . . . it’s all coming back to me think I’ll go and make myself a new Fifi!”

  3. nicola baird Says:

    More from Facebook:
    Hugh “this is a wonderful book by a lovely man and gives you plenty to do on a walk …
    The Cloud Collector’s Handbook
    From the author of the bestselling THE CLOUDSPOTTER’S GUIDE comes the essential aid for everyday cloudspotting

    Nicola Baird “Tnx Hugh Warwick & good luck with your big book lauch/show”

    Penny “We collect stuff. Each kid has a bag to collect things for a walk story afterwards. We then make it into a collage or just to tell a story with later. I find having a lollipop or other edible makes the walk more interesting too! Collecting things to eat is always the best but not always possible. Also, used to take a little bag of clay and make a stop to make tiny clay things to hang in trees or place on walls etc along the way. They are biodegradable.”

    Nicola Baird” ‎@penny – such a shame you aren’t in charge of teaching/walking more children as your creativity is just astounding.”

    Penny “Aw so nice of you to say so. I often consider going back into teaching so I can have an outlet for such funny ideas – just sad that I never get enough time with my own kids to do enough of them…”

    Roger “We find that friends work very well. Ideally, you take along a cross-section to please every member of the family. Often that entails walking with about 20 people.”

    Penny “And a couple of small zippy dogs also does the trick. We walked 10 miles with four lumpen young ladies who would never have made it without whining had they not had each other and the two Jack Russells for company”

    • homemadekids Says:

      Nicola Baird “Dear people who offered such great suggestions. At the w/e on a walk I noticed that Pete had a wind-up radio to his ear (for nearly 2 hrs) to follow the last big football saturday; and whenever we stopped Lola read a book on her phone… Gadgets obviously help stop walks being boring too!”

      Martin (from Facebook, possibly tongue in cheek!): ” I like talking to Nat when we go walking.”

      • homemadekids Says:

        Zoe: “I went on a wild walk tour last weekend and we were learning to identify trees from their bark with our eyes shut and then to identlfy them at a distance from the shapes and featheriness of the leaves – it also included lots of plant and bug id and a bit of tree climbing – we all had a lovely time.”

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