When our kids first learn to walk, they may be so determined it's hard to stop them. However once the novelty wears off there may be moments when we're on our way somewhere and they get grumpy, whiney and don't want to walk.
Sometimes it could be that they're just genuinely tired. At other times they may simply get bored. Walking in a straight line can be pretty boring for a child! It could also be that they are feeling disconnected, or are experiencing upset feelings. They may start telling us about their feelings through being grumpy and whiney, and wanting to be carried.
Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection shared with me that we can become aware of when children are using the movement from the walk as a means of letting us know they need to be listened to. Sometimes we can use staylistening to help them through these difficult moments. At other times laughter and playlistening will seem more appropriate.
If we need to get somewhere, and our child just doesn't want to walk, or we are physically exhausted and just can't carry them anymore, a little bit of play can help give children the burst of energy they need to keep going. Some of these tips can be used for when you just want to get home from the supermarket. Others can help everyone enjoy family hikes in the countryside. Repeat each one as long as the giggles are flowing, and you are going in roughly the right direction!
- Mummy limpet and baby limpet – In this game. We pretend we are the mummy or daddy limpet, and our child is the baby limpet. We tell our child in a playful tone that they must stay stuck to us the whole time and we really hope that they don't get unstuck and run away. This is the ideal invitation for them to do just that. We can chase after them saying, ”oh no! My limpet's running away, I need to catch her and get stuck again.” We can also play when we get unstuck from our child, and go forward a metre or two. We can then call out to our child, ”Oh no, I got unstuck! Quick catch up with me!”
- Runaway Buggy – Exercise keeps me sane and as we live in the countryside, I like to go on a walk most days. I have encouraged my daughter out of the house by taking a buggy where she can sit and eat snacks. Eventually she gets bored and actually wants to walk. Sometimes she needs a bit of persuasion, so we play runaway buggy, and I ask for her help to chase it.
- Buggy Races – I sometimes pretend to speak in the voice of the buggy, and ask my daughter to race her. Then the buggy makes the mistake of starting to race even though she's still sitting in there. This makes her laugh. Eventually she'll get out and want to do a real race.
- Make it Fun Melinda Taylor Shoutens of the website More 2 Explore says ‘ We bring loads of snacks. The children collect sticks. We bring bubbles and stop for breaks. We also search for treasures along the trail and seek out wild life. ”
- Go Somewhere Fun And Child Friendly – Choose somewhere with interesting things to look at along the way, for example this Adventure Dwarf trail in Muggenstutz, Switzerland was recommended to me by Melinda Taylor Shoutens. It has been designed with little hikers in mind.
- Try A Treasure Hunt – Ariadne Brill says, ”For a simple scavenger hunt, for example, we have drawn pictures of things we think we might be able to find along our walk. Sometimes we even draw super silly things like a purple elephant, and then of course I get to pretend to just have seen it and spark up more curiosity and the need to keep walking.”
- Bring Binoculars and Magnifying Glasses My friend Karin recommends bringing along these gadgets to make exploring a bit more interesting. You might also want to try books in the I-Spy Series where you go into nature and tick off the thig
- Try Geocaching – Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt, with lots of tiny boxes hidden in millions of places all over the world. Walking to get from A-B may not be fun, but hunting for treasure is! For more info see the Geocaching website.
- Runaway ball- This one is good for the countryside, but not so good on a busy street! Have a ball in your bag, and when your child starts complaining about being bored or tired get the ball out and throw it down the path. Then you and your child can chase after it. Repeat!
- Silly Legs – Have your legs suddenly walk backwards, or sideways, or in zig-zags and then tell your child, ”oh dear! My legs have started going all wrong. Can you help me please?” They will enjoy being in the more powerful role as they sort your silly legs out. If you try the sideways walk you might want to tell your child that you have turned into a crab. Say, ”come on baby crab.” If they're still going forwards you could say, ”hmm. This must be a human child, she doesn't seem to be walking right for a crab.”
- Crazy Wind That Blows You Along The Road – Ask your child if they can feel the wind blowing. Tug at your child's hand and tell them that there's a wind blowing your down the road. You'll get where you need to go much fast with a crazy wind blowing you.
- Silly Scooter – If your child has a scooter with them that they no longer want to ride you could turn it into a silly scooter. Have it jump down the road, or land in funny places, or go backwards or sideways, and ask your child to help catch the silly scooter.
- Pull Along Stick – If you're in the countryside, find a stick and pretend it is a train, or bus, that will pull your child along. Have the stick go really fast to add excitement. Or have it go really slow, and start complaining to the train saying, ”Excuse me train. I need you to go a bit faster than this!” This put you in the less powerful role, so is likely to get your child giggling.
- Fast Bit – When you are walking along the street, and your child is complaining about being tired tell them that you think you are coming up to a fast bit. Then pull your child's hand and start running. Build your child’s sense of anticipation, and put yourself in the less powerful role by saying, ”I hope that’s the end of the fast bits for now. Oh no! There’s another fast bit.”
- Jungle Walk – From Hand in Hand instructor Skye Marilyn Munroe of Nurturing Connections.We live at the top of a hill ( the things you do for ocean glimpses !)
At the bottom of the hill is a playground. Mr 4 is super keen to walk TO the playground, and does it without a worry.The walk home is not always as pleasant. Mr 4 has been VERY interested in jungles of late…”Oh no!” I exclaim “We are stuck in the middle of the jungle, how will we ever get out of here & home?! Please help me Mr Explorer!” “FOLLOW ME!” He cried, immediately buying into it.We trekked through the arduous jungle, fighting through tangly vines, dodging coconuts thrown by the cheeky monkeys and freezing like statues anytime a dangerous jungle animal ( aka car) approached. We even had to do a tricky river crossing (zebra crossing) We ran, we stalked, we crawled our way to safety (home). It was super fun and we made it home in record time!
I hope these ideas making walking with kids more fun and playful. To read more of Ariadne brills wonderful tips check out Fun Ways To Motivate Children To Take Long Walks. You might also like, Sensory Walk: A Sense Of Touch Walk
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Kate Orson is a Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor, and mother to a 4-year-old daughter. Originally from the UK she now lives in Basel, Switzerland. She is the author of Tears Heal, How To Listen To Our Children. Connect with Kate on Facebook or follow her Blog.