Walking with your children is an amazing way to keep them active and to allow them to explore the wonderful things that they see around them. To make the most out of walking with your young children, you should take the time to plan family friendly routes. You should also follow a few additional safety tips to make sure that you do not put young children at risk whilst you are out and about.
Choosing a route
Start by working out how far you would like to walk with your child. Many young children can walk a surprising distance, but if your child gets tired before the end then you might find yourself having to carry them a long way. Parents are likely to be the best judge of their own children’s ability to cover longer distances or difficult terrain, so use your own discretion if someone else suggests a route to you.
Plan your route so that you can avoid or minimise time spent close to busy roads or crossing over road junctions. It is also a good idea to avoid walking on canal towpaths or riverbanks with younger children. OS maps also show some potentially dangerous features, such as mine shafts. These areas are best avoided if your children are liable to run around and play away from the footpath.
First aid kit
Make sure that you take a portable First aid kit with you whenever you go out on walks with your children. A basic First aid kit should include plasters, antihistamines, antiseptic wipes, bandages, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, and blister treatments. You should also include pain relief medication in case any of the adults in the group are injured.
Children are unlikely to get badly hurt whilst they are out walking, but the first aid kit will allow you to provide low-level treatment to any cuts, bruises, grazes or sprains that can occur during physical activities.
You should think carefully about the weather before setting out on a walk with your children. In the summer it is important that you take sun cream with you so that they will be protected from the sun whilst you are out on your walk. A wide brimmed hat with a neck flap will help to keep the sun off of their head and face. The sun can also be quite bright if you are walking in the hills, so you should take a pair of sunglasses for them.
Make sure that you have enough water with you to keep the whole party adequately hydrated. Stop regularly to drink water and have trail mix to keep their energy levels up. If they start to get thirsty, then they are not drinking regularly enough.
If the weather could get cold or wet, make sure that they all have their own hats and gloves with them. Mittens and gloves on strings are great choices for younger children who are likely to lose their own.
If you are travelling with any infants or toddlers who are in a baby carrier, you will need to take extra precautions to make sure that they are warm enough. They may need an extra layer of clothing, because they will not be working up a sweat in the same way that you are. Regularly stop to check their temperature to make sure that they are OK.
When you are walking, you should try to maintain the pace of the slowest member of the group. Walking too fast will deplete energy levels quickly and can leave people struggling to complete the walk.
Allow plenty of time to complete the route, so that you are not forced to rush the final sections if the beginning parts took longer than expected. Participants are unlikely to enjoy a walk properly if they feel as though they are being rushed around a route. Give each participant the chance to rest when you stop, rather than waiting for them to catch up and then continuing straight away.
Walk with friends
Children are more likely to enjoy their walk if they are allowed to walk with friends or other young family members. A walk is also the perfect opportunity for you to enjoy social interaction with other parents. You can all watch the children whilst continuing to enjoy each other’s company.
There are plenty of organisations, including the National Trust and English Heritage, who organise special walks for family groups. Although some of these organised walks are just straight-forward rambles, other organised walks may include additional fun elements that are specifically aimed at helping to keep children entertained. Examples of these walks include Beatrix Potter trails in the Lake District, which offer children the opportunity to spot their favourite characters as they continue to walk around the set route.