Walking with Happy Kids
Updated: Nov 29, 2021
There's nothing worse than being stuck on a walk with a bunch of whining kids. Over the years we’ve developed a little arsenal of defense strategies which for our family work wonders (they just don’t complain any more). Anyway, below are a list of what we do:
Shoes: Make sure your kids have good shoes and socks, sore feet end a walk faster than anything else (and not a lot you can do about that one). Remember if it’s wet or you’re tramping then you need waterproof shoes or good woolen socks. Gumboots are fine for short walks but they’re not ideal for longer ones. Shoes with grippy soles are a must for tramps.
Appropriate Clothing: Like with above pack warm clothes. We always bring rain or puffer jackets/a jersey. If you’re going up to the top of a big hill, bring a couple of woollen hats, there’s nothing worse than freezing cold ears. Often, we’ll bring less for us because we’re tough 😉. Also remember to layer clothes so they can strip down/layer up as needed. Often the first 30min of a tramp we stop 10x as everyone changes their layers around.
Friends: Go with other families, things are often more fun with friends.
Start Small: Practice on smaller walks and work your way up. If something turns out to be harder/longer than you thought then try below…
Snackage: Sweets, chocolate…biscuits. Anything that will get them to the next sign-post/corner. We’ve sometimes cut the last lollies into ¼ so they last that little bit longer.
Stories: Start telling stories, about anything - when you were young, a made-up story, a book you've read. Distraction is key. Alternatively you can get them to tell you all about a book they’ve read, something they’ve learnt at school etc.
Games: Play games like the one where two adults hold both child’s hand’s and you “run, run, run jump”. After a while we count to 20 ...30 etc to drag it out. Eye-Spy is a great game as well as Guess Who I Am Game (one person choses what they are, it could be a thing, person, fiction or non fiction. Everyone else then has to guess what they are by asking yes and no questions).
Food: Bring lots of food. If we run low we go without but always make sure the kids aren’t hungry. If they are then you’re going to have to think of the biggest yummiest bribe when you get back to the car😊.
Water: do not run out of water! We usually bring 4x soda stream bottles for a day walk. If it’s really hot, we’ll add an extra one. For a 2 hour walk we’d bring at least 2x bottles. Very few walks we do have water on them – we’ve tried to add that in our notes.
Stop: sit down, eat food. Don’t make it a big deal. “It sounds like we all need a rest, how about we sit down and have something yummy to eat”. It’s about “we”, everyone is in it together
Plan the post walk celebration: Ice-creams, takeaways, out for dinner.
Carry them for a while: It’s good if you’re fit enough to provide the odd piggyback or shoulder ride when the kids are little. We barely ever said no to these, but we made them short. If it’s too hard for us to carry them then maybe everyone needs a rest anyway. We wouldn’t have felt comfortable getting into the bigger walks (10-20km) with Miss 4-6 if we didn’t know if things got really tough we could carry her back. Although - we’d then be the whining ones (but nothing the promise of a glass of wine or cold beer won’t fix). When we‘re doing an overnight tramp this changes as it’s tricky to carry bigger kids when you already have a heavy pack. So, until we were confident that they didn’t need carries any more we didn’t take them into the Tararua’s overnight (this was also a great incentive for them).
Take your time: Make sure you plan ample of time, it’s not a race so you don’t have to aim for the time given on the signposts, playing in a river, having a long lunch break. Playing in the roots of giant trees. It’s all part of the walk. Some of the Wellington City walks have lots of playgrounds along the way, that is a huge hit!
Create a scavenger hunt: Look for interesting mushrooms, insects, birds. Ask them about what trees they know the names of, see if they can find a Nikau/Totara etc. We ended up buying a couple of books on NZ Native trees to help us learn about them too. It also gives more of an opportunity to stop because every 500m you’re looking at a tree trying to work out what it is.
Take Photos: We brought a camera for our kids once they were 5+, Master 9 loves taking his camera and finding interesting things to photograph.
Positive Reinforcement: We often talk about how amazing the kids are and how probably NO child their age has ever been to the top of “xyz” and if they did they probably stopped every 2 meters. They're probably the strongest children in Wellington 😉
Negative Reinforcement: Sometimes we do the opposite of above – that works wonders for Miss 5-6. We’ll say to her “look, this is such a huge walk, it’s not really meant for under 7-year-olds. Let me know if you ever want a piggyback ride or shoulder ride” the answer is usually “nope, I don’t need any help I can do this all by myself!”. Or “aww my legs are sore and you’re so much smaller, yours must be about to fall off” the answer "mine don't hurt at all!". Or “this hill is way to big for you, now come on I’ll give you a piggy back ride” the usual response is "I don't need a piggy back ride Mummy!" (said in disgust that I would even dear mention it).
Hope this was helpful