One of the best bits about walking is that it’s spontaneous, but with a little forward-thinking you can find the best routes for a family jaunt.
Free range walks don't need a lot of planning - it's far more fun to be spontaneous! Take off to the park or the local woods. Or why not combine walking with another activity? Try going to the swimming pool or cinema on foot instead of taking the car - very often walking can be quicker than driving for local journeys.
There are a few key things to bear in mind, especially if you're planning to walk a little further:
- allow plenty of time - go at the pace of the slowest walking child and allow time for regular breaks;
- don't go too far or take a pushchair or child carrier if you're planning on walking a longer distance with young children or babies;
- make the walk fun - look for things to spot along the way or play I-Spy;
- take a small rucksack for essentials such as food and drink, hats and gloves.
For more great ideas of things to do on a walk and a checklist of what to take with you, download our handy Planning a walk (pdf) activity sheet.
Make it fun!
Younger children may need a bit of encouragement to keep going. Here are our top 10 tips for making walking fun:
- Focus on a fun destination like a park, a playground, woods, a pond or a friend's house;
- Choose a wiggly, winding route rather than a long, straight, boring one;
- Take a camera and photograph your journey;
- Have a scavenger hunt. Challenge children to find trees, flowers and animals, unusual buildings or road names - use our Nature trail-tastic guide (pdf) for inspiration, or our Festive Foraging guide (pdf) to entice them out during winter months;
- Encourage your child to invite a friend along;
- Take your dog along for the walk and if you don't have one, see if you can take your neighbour's;
- Kick leaves and jump in puddles when it's raining and windy - our Autumn Forest Fun guide (pdf) and Puddle Playtime guide (pdf) have more ideas for this time of year;
- If children are flagging, walk a little way ahead and hide treasure, like chocolate coins, along the way for them to find;
- Add excitement by walking in fancy dress;
- Challenge children to avoid stepping on lines in the pavement.
Finding good walks
Whether you're making a short journey to the library or going for a longer walk, try to choose a route which avoids busy roads and junctions where possible. Even in towns and cities, you can usually find quieter roads, routes through parks and riverside or canal towpaths.
A good place to start is the National Cycle Network which has over 13,000 miles of routes throughout the country. A third of these are traffic-free and can be used by walkers with pushchairs and wheelchair users as well as cyclists. Over half of people in the UK live within walking distance of the National Cycle Network so it's a great place for family walks - use our online mapping to find routes near you.
Other ways to find out about walks:
- ask friends if they know good places to walk with kids;
- your local council's website may have maps to download;
- your local library should have free maps and leaflets for your area.