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Feature: Top tips for walking with young children

Walking with children, it can be so joyous, or SO painful. Top tips on walking with young children!

5 min read

Walking with children, it can be so joyous, or SO painful. As a dog owner, my children have had to accompany me on a dog walk pretty much every day of their lives before they went to school. So over the years, I’ve acquired a few hints and tips that you might find useful if you’re persuading your children that going on a stroll is good for their soul! I also do many a walk with my lovely families, children can't bounce off the walls if we remove them right?!

Family photographer, walking with children in Berkshire

 

I do also want to add, I don’t have a choice – I have to take the dog for a walk. Would I have walked so much with them so small otherwise?! Probably not!

1.    The Gear

 

Dress for success. I think it’s the Scandinavians who say ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ and I’m inclined to agree with this. Remove the barriers of being cold before you start. In the winter when we go for a walk this is my list:

-      Full puddle suit – we love these insulated ones from MuddyPuddles. They often run sales, so keep an eye out!

-      Gloves – forget about the lovely wool ones. Buy waterproof ski ones because they will undoubtedly fall over/pick up sticks/jump in puddles. I always take two pairs with me for each child – cold hands can ruin a walk. H&M often do nice inexpensive ski gloves for kids.

-      Welly socks – wellies aren’t actually very warm, so welly socks are a must.

-      Snood scarves – snoods are infinitely more practical than scarves – they can’t fall off. We got ours from Amazon.

-      Wellies – no need to explain this!

Children's walks in Berkshire, child photographer in Newbury

2.    Prams

 As we have a very energetic spaniel, I needed to cover large distances to give her a proper walk. Up until my youngest turned 3, I took our double buggy everywhere with us. What this meant was it ruled out all conversations about being tired. As soon as they got tired, they jumped in the buggy and we could continue on the walk until they wanted to get out again. Since my youngest turned 3 we have ditched the buggy but it was a life saver up until this point. As we live rurally we have a double Out’n’About – super light weight and super sturdy, will go over absolutely anything!

Fun family walking in Berkshire, by a family photographer

3.    Up up up

This was a battle for us from both of the kids, and why the pram was so vital when they were little. When my eldest was small, I often did pick her up to just keep her moving, but it proved futile as she just asked more and more.

With my youngest, since we ditched the pram, I adopted a different approach to try and avoid this as it’s impossible to carry children over long distances! I would say we could sit down and take a break, or she could hold my hand but I couldn’t carry her. Sometimes this would work, other times not, but with consistency, she very rarely asks now. If that didn’t work, I would deploy tip 7!

Children having fun on family photoshoot, walking in Berkshire

4.    The walk itself

 

In my area, there are child friendly walks that I do with my kids, and walks that I will do alone with the dog. Kids need entertainment along the way, things to climb on, to look at, to jump in and to play with.Woods are the absolute best because there will always be an extra activity they can do other than walking. My children are now good walkers but there are still walks I won’t take them on as they don’t have the extra bits and pieces. I’m not talking about a park here, but just little obstacles that they can feel curious about.

 

I will write a separate post about the best chid friendly walks in Berkshire!

children walking in Berkshire, fun family shoots with Berkshire photographer

5.    Repetition

 

I think this is probably the most important point. Children love repetition. They love to know what’s going to happen next. Have you ever found that you can do the loop of your favourite park without so much as a moan but go and meet a friend elsewhere and suddenly it’s moan central?! It’s not that they suddenly can’t walk…they just don’t know how long it’s going to last and what’s around the corner. I have about 8 local walks that the children know inside out and we do them on repeat. They’ve all got names– such as Zog’s Woods, The Witch’s Canal, The Crocodile stream. They get to pick the walk in the morning and it gives them some control. They also know long it takes, and what they can expect. It really helps. This might sound boring for adults, but nature keeps it interesting in the changing seasons, and there is always new stuff to see.

Children photography by Berkshire Photographer, walking with children

6.    You

 

Children get their cues from us, if you’re interested, they will be too. If you are doing repetitive walks, you’ll know the key milestones that you can use to propel them forward. A log pile house?! A stream!? A fallen down tree? Make it sound interesting…and it will be!

 

For example, in our local woods there is a particular area which has slightly more trees than the rest of the forest – I named this specific area the ‘Hide and Seek’ woods and the children will run ahead to get to it.It’s the same wood…but they think it’s special.

 

Tips for walking with children in Berkshire

 

7.    Freedom

 

As we’ve grown up with the dog, walking in all weather is a necessity and I’ve become very well acquainted with mud and mess! If we want children to enjoy going on walks…they’ve got to be fun. Fun in children’s eyes is exploring and not necessarily keeping clean. Children have an innate curiosity, they want to know what it's like to lie in mud, to splash in the puddle, to climb that tree. I try and let them do whatever they want while exploring, not only is it vital for their brain development, it’s also wiring their brain to believe walking is fun.

 

This loops back round to the right gear – if they’re in a full puddle suit, mud is just not a problem. I’ve seen many a parent trying to persuade kids not to jump in the puddle on a walk, and I know the washing is a pain (the amount of clothes my children get through is insane) but I would prefer this to a walk with bored kids!

Fun family photoshoots in Newbury Berkshire

 

8.     Snacks

 

Vital. Absolutely vital. One snack, half way through the walk. I try and change these up depending on the season. In the winter when it’s cold, I’ll take hot chocolate and marshmallows with us to warm everyone up. In the summer, I’ll freeze an innocent smoothie and they can drink it as it defrosts. If it’s been a tough morning and you know it’s going to be a slog to get them out, bring a high value treat with you, mine will do most things for cake!

Family photography in Newbury Berkshire
9.    The back ups

Don’t get me wrong, my children still moan on walks, sometimes it’s just not my day. I always have a backpack with me, and there area few lightweight things I keep in there for emergencies. I know too well the panic when they’re refusing to go any further but you’re still 2 miles from home….!

-      A treasure map. This is absolute gold. Just draw one before you leave, and keep it in your bag. If life is getting tough, hide it somewhere they will find it and you can propel them forward in hope of treasure. During lockdown, because we were all losing our marbles, I also kept chocolate coins in my bag to really help the situation. I also keep a bag of plastic coins as well if we’ve maxed out on sugar for the day! The map doesn’t have to be representative of the walk…children’s imaginations are amazing and they just need a tiny prop to fly!

-      If you have children who can read, you could also do a little clue driven treasure hunt. This takes a little bit more thought before hand…but it can be as simple as writing “gate” “stream” “bench” onto pieces of paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it’s amazing how they’ll run from clue to clue!

-      A bug kit – packing a tiny bug kit in your bag, can make a huge difference to distract kids. A magnifying glass, a little pot to put anything in they find, you can go as extensive or minimalist as you like.

-      A basket. The power of a basket. Children LOVE to collect things and my pockets are always full of random stones, twigs, and flowers. Give them a basket and they are in charge of their own precious things. Once home, you can also do activities with the things they’ve collected, writing in a nature journal, painting the stones, using the twigs to make shapes – the world is their oyster.

-      A tea set. A couple of tiny plastic cups and plates and you can have a mini tea party at snack time. It’s just snack time, but add a bit of drama to it. They can also then find mud/leaves etc to make their own tea party once snack time is over.

 

Natural, relaxed family photography, tips on walking with children

 

The most important thing is consistency. You aren’t going to have a perfect walk everyday, children will always find something to be unhappy about, but start small, 20 minutes here and there and you’ll be amazed how used to it they become.

Tips on walking with children in Berkshire
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