Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let's go for a walk!

Children_walking : Family outdoors walking on path holding hands and smiling (selective focus)by Kelly Miller

One of my families favorite activities to do together is go on walks and hikes.  Our children's ages are 2, 6 and 9 years old, and exploring the outdoors together is a fun, inclusive activity for everyone.  Recently a friend of mine stated that her children refuse to go on walks, so I have prepared some tips for her that I thought others would enjoy reading.

Have a theme.  One of my daughter's favorite activities is to go on "family night-time walks."  We have been doing this for 9 years now.  Our "family night-time walks" involve the children all getting in their pajamas to walk through our neighborhood when it is dusk.  Keeping safety in mind, we are home by dark.

Choose a location.  We have various interesting routes we take when in our neighborhood.  After living in our home for 6 years, we discovered a small, woodsy trail with a pond and wooden bridge that are less than a mile from our home.  At other times we venture out to a new neighborhood -- sometimes well-known trails, other times just a neighborhood that looks interesting.

Make it fun.  It is great to pack along a snack for a break, as well as a frisbee or ball to break up the walk.  If your walk is through the city, it is fun to stop at an ice-cream or coffee shop.  When walking in the wilderness, I almost always bring sandwiches and fruit.  In fact, one trail we have taken so often that a particular clearing next to the Mississippi River is called "the Miller spot" -- and I know I'd better have food along if we are going there!

Collect items for crafts.  Sticks, rocks, sand, gravel and pinecones are all fun to collect.  When the children arrive home, let them be creative.  My children love to paint rocks and make pine cone bird feeders.  Even gravel can be used to make a mosaic picture on heavy cardboard.  Press rocks into clay (2 c. flour and 1/2 c. salt water makes a good base). 

Practice counting.  How many of a certain animal (dogs, birds, deer, squirrels) can you spot?  Or a certain flower or tree? 

Keep a comfortable pace.  Put the slowest hiker (usually the youngest child) in front.  Have the others keep pace behind him. 

Bring necessities.  Hats, sunscreen, glasses or insect repellant may be necessary.  Bring plenty of water; 34 oz is suggested for an adult. 

Children_walking : Father and daughter holding hands while walking in the parkProper dress.  Layers are best.  Appropriate footwear is a must.

I hope these tips help your family enjoy being outside!  Our daughter has enjoyed these activities since she was an infant.  Last year we adopted our sons, and our oldest son had not been exposed to long hikes.  He was less than enthusiastic about the idea of long walks, due to his obesity and asthma.  Now, a year later, he is at a healthy weight, has almost no asthma symptoms, and can walk with our family for hours at a time.  While we occasionally go on short 30-minute walks, the majority of our walks are 1-2 hours in length.  Our 2-year-old has decided he would rather run than walk .... and he keeps running!  Of course, we have a stroller along or carry him as needed.  I would love to hear your comments about enjoying hikes and walks with your children.

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