One of the best bits about walking is that it’s free, low impact exercise suitable for all the family. Babies benefit from fresh air and lots of things to look at, while toddlers and children can run around and explore.
Whether you are off to the park going for a day out in the local woods, we have lots of tips to help you make it a fun day for everyone.
Walking with babies and toddlers
If you are walking with a baby, you will need to carry them. Toddlers who can walk themselves will get tired quickly, so make sure you bring a pushchair if you are going for a long walk.
A very wide range of baby and child carriers is available, ranging from those where a small baby is strapped to the parent's chest, keeping safe and warm snuggled next to mum or dad, to rucksack-style carriers where an adult can carry a toddler on their back.
Carriers enable adults to do a greater range of walks than with a pushchair, although there is a risk of losing your balance so it's best to avoid very difficult walks.
Pushchairs are a great option for short and local walks as children can hop out and walk when they want to, or get a ride if they're feeling tired (or if you need to get somewhere quickly!). Double buggies take two children either side by side or one behind the other. Another option is to attach a buggy board to the back of your pushchair which an older sibling can stand on and hitch a ride.
For more adventurous walking, three-wheelers or all-terrain pushchairs with pneumatic tyres can be a good solution.
While you can legally take a pushchair anywhere that you’re allowed to walk, you may want to avoid rough surfaces, very narrow paths, steep hills and routes with lots of gates or stiles.
Most traffic-free routes on the National Cycle Network are ideal for pushchairs. The National Cycle Network has over 13,000 miles of routes throughout the UK, a third of which are paths free from traffic. This makes them ideal for walkers, families with pushchairs and wheelchair users - as well as cyclists, of course!
When walking with children in carriers or pushchairs it's important to remember to:
- protect them from the sun with sun hats and sunscreen
- keep them warm with extra layers and a hat as they won't be moving and working up a sweat like you
How to make walking fun for kids
Younger children get bored easily and may need a bit of encouragement to keep going. Here are our top tips for making walking with kids fun:
- Focus on an exciting destination for them like a park, a playground, woods or a pond where they can run around freely and explore
- Choose a wiggly, winding route rather than a long, straight, one
- Take a camera and ask them to help take photographs of your journey
- Have a scavenger hunt. Challenge children to find trees, flowers and animals, and if you walking in an urban area ask them to spot unusual buildings or read out 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 to share the fun
- Take your dog along for the walk and if you don't have one, see if you can take your neighbour's
- Let the kids play freely, kicking leaves and jumping in puddles or making mud castles 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, take a break and refuel with healthy snacks and drinks
- Add excitement by walking in fancy dress or pretending to be characters from their favourite book
How to find the best family walks
Whether you're making a short journey to the park 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.
The National Trust is another great resource for walking inspiration. You could also ask friends if they know good places to walk with kids and invite them along.
When walking allow plenty of time to complete the walk, going at the pace of the slowest person and plan regular breaks. Share the load of carrying essentials such as food and drink, sun protection hats and gloves by asking everyone to bring a rucksack.