Walking with Children

15 April 2013

I am currently undertaking the most difficult challenge of my life – getting my kids to walk for more than an hour.

We’ve been walking in the fells for years and some days it’s great and others, like last night near Caldbeck, it’s not so great. After about 30 minutes of relatively flat walking with the dog, my youngest daughter suddenly fell to the ground, on her knees, and reached desperately up to the sky.

‘What is the point of this?’

‘Get up for goodness sake,’ that was me.

‘What are we doing, what are we doing out here?’ That was her.
This happens every now and again, when I’ve forgotten the rules. As my daughter dramatically demonstrated, when walking, kids need a point, there has to be something in it for them. How selfish is that? I was a bit mad with her, because I was enjoying myself until that moment, but let’s move on.

If you want to have a trouble free walk, I found over the years that these are the main ingredients.
Haribos – deep inside your rucksack, far away from the clutching hands of your children you need the promise of something great. Use this promise with the following sentence:

‘Just round the next bend we’ll stop and have some Haribos.’

When the next bend arrives, use the same sentence again without breaking your stride or getting anything out of your rucksack. Replace ‘bend’ with ‘rock’ or ‘bridge’ or ‘tree’ to keep it interesting. Eventually this stops working and you can feed them some haribos.

Rivers – kids love rivers, boots off and a bit of paddling will work wonders, a tiny bit of ghyl scrambling never fails. I have played ‘Pooh Sticks’ a zillion times, maybe more, but kids never get tired of it, and I never win (because they cheat).

Tree trunks – every time you see a fallen tree, that looks safe, get on there and shout ‘Bet you can’t walk all the way to the end without falling off?’ If they get close to achieving the task push them off.

Caves – definitely. There is nothing more exciting than walking to a cave, as long as you make it sound dangerous. Dragons are good for under 5s, then maybe bears for the under 10s, and for teenagers -’that roof doesn’t look safe.’

Stoves – take a stove and some pasta and do some cooking. Your kids will eat anything in the fresh air, believe me. Test them out with a brussel sprout and liver stew (no don’t, that was a joke).

Sticks – my kids love to look for a really good walking stick, every time they go out. This puts a bit of time in. We have a garden full of old sticks because to leave them would be ‘stick cruelty.’

Maps – this is risky this one, but give your child the map, tell them the route and let them lead the way. They love doing that. When you get lost, running after them shouting ‘Give me that map. I mean it, GIVE ME THE MAP’ will put a few miles in.

In my ideal future my children will love the outdoor life as much as me and we will all go on long happy hikes together in the warm summer months – unless I sicken them at an early age with my constant quest for caves, rivers and tree trunks. I hope not.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

Photo by: Mike Licht

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