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Lately, I’ve made it a goal to get out for a walk with my kids most days of the week.  Although their school provides ample opportunity for physical play during the school day, I try to get one more good spurt of activity after they are home and on each weekend day.

Beyond the physical stimulation, I find that there is a lot of emotional release that goes on during our walks.  My kids are willing to open up about things that probably wouldn’t have been discussed if we were at home, each engaged in our own individual tasks.

Of course, some days it is easier to get the kids out the door than others.  Below are some ways we make the walk more than just a “walk,” and more of an adventure.

Scavenger Hunt

You know those small, brown tote-like bags that Whole Foods uses for things like rotisserie chicken or takeout food?  We keep a stack of them and pull them out for scavenger hunt walks.  We make a list – and now that the eldest can write, he usually drafts it – of items we want to find on our walk.  Our list often includes things like moss, a small stick, a “dandy” flower (dandelion), a piece of trash, an interesting leaf, etc.

Sometimes we venture out without an actual list and just select things that interest us from the natural world for our bags.  Often, our treasures end up in art projects or our “special boxes” where we keep small items that have important meaning to us.

Color Hunt

A variation on the Scavenger Hunt is our Color Hunt.  We make out a list of colors we want to spot, and then we go find objects in those colors.  Sometimes we come armed with bags, but more often than not, we just eyeball the items.  That’s mainly because a lot of my daughter’s most beloved colors don’t appear frequently in nature in our neck of the woods.

I love hunting for colors because it gives us fun opportunities to compare and contrast colors, and to talk about how things in nature get to be the colors that they are.

Signs of the Season

This is our go-to walk activity, namely because it doesn’t require the kids to keep up with bags.  While we are out, we hunt for signs of the impending or current season, depending  on how deep we are into the present season.  So, in late winter or early spring, we look for bulbs popping, buds on the trees, we listen for birds, and we check for pollen.  During fall and winter, we eye the trees and judge their leaves: “What color are the leaves?” “Does the tree still have most of its leaves or have most fallen?” “Why do you think that tree is bare?”  We use our noses to smell for fires in fireplaces, and listen for whether and what birds might be singing.

Make-Your-Own-Adventure

If you asked my kids, this would probably be their favorite walking activity.  I love it because it gives each child a chance to be “in charge” and I find it incredibly useful during periods of defiance in the household.  I often use this to defuse an emotionally-charged afternoon.

If I am walking with one kid only – something I like to do to reconnect with him or her – then the walk becomes solely up to that child.  At each intersection, he or she gets to choose the direction we travel.  It’s pretty fascinating to watch the child struggle with the decision and that struggle is always a great reminder for me of how important it is to offer my kids choices.  Decision-making is a skill that needs cultivation.

If we have both big kids in tow, we alternate turns choosing our path.  Last weekend, we explored a street we’ve never walked before although it is just a few streets over.  We never would have done that had the adults been in charge.

Towards the end of the kid-directed walks, we do have to steer them home, so we let them choose the side of the road we’ll walk on as opposed to the route itself.

Those are our family walking traditions.  Mind you, all of these are walks we can do just by stepping out our front door.  When we venture out on actual trails or hikes, we have other games we play.

Now, it’s your turn.  What ways do you engage your kids on walks?

(Find this and other similar articles on Nourishing Joy’s Thank Goodness It’s Monday – 13 and Butter Believer’s Sunday School Blog Carnival.)

4 Responses to “Walking with Children : 4 Activities for a Neighborhood Walk”

  1. on 28 Mar 2013 at 12:14 amMarcia Wade

    What a wonderful post–for grandmothers (and grandfathers) as well as for moms (and dads). I knew I was saving all those small bags from Whole Foods for a reason!

  2. on 28 Mar 2013 at 8:02 amKristine Rudolph

    Oh, thank you! Your grandkids are lucky to have you!

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