The weather was mostly warm and sunny during the first lock down so getting outside was perhaps not the mammoth task it seems now. Persuading kids to leave their toys and screens to do some exercise can be hard work, but worthwhile in the long run. Movement is not only good for our physical health - it's good for our mental wellbeing too. So, it’s important we encourage youngsters to be active and exercise from a young age.
Go for a walk…
Walking is a great form of exercise that people of most ages and abilities can participate in, but some days I struggle to get my boys out for a walk. Desperate for new ways to get them out the door, I came up with a few incentives that seemed to do the trick. Here are my top 10.
1. Scavenger hunt
Task your children with a tick list of things to look out for on your walk - for younger children a picture and the word makes it more inclusive. You can include anything you might see on your walk – from cars and letterboxes to clouds or pinecones. To help get you started there are loads online that you can download or make your own that is specific to the place you are going to visit.
2. Treasure hunt
Interchangeable with a scavenger hunt but for a treasure hunt I usually put a few treats in my pocket and hide them along the way. Sometimes I mark points on a map on my phone and we follow it to find the ‘treasure’. To make it more fun, ask your children to draw their own map of a walk or the local park where you can hide ‘treasure’ for each other. They can also hide treasure for their sibling and swap maps.
3. Collect sticks
Collect some sticks on your daily walk and when you get home use them to make stick men. Pipe cleaners work really well for wrapping around sticks to make good stickmen – and it’ll keep them occupied for longer! Or you can use the sticks to have a (safe) fire in your back garden - old baking trays make great ‘fire pits’ for toasting marshmallows. Don’t forget to save a few sticks to use as skewers for your marshmallows for an authentic round the campfire experience.
4. Go bird watching, flower or tree spotting
See how may birds you can spot in your local area. There are lots of useful bird guides on the RSPB website to help you identify birds. With Spring just around the corner, see which flowers you can photograph along your route - when you get home see if you can identify them. Or maybe count the different types of trees along your route. Can you tell by looking at the bark or the shapes of the leaves? Use an app to help identify them or have a look on the woodland trust website.
5. Litter Pick
Take some gloves and rubbish bags and help do your bit for the local environment by collecting litter. When you get home sort what you can to be recycled.
Similar to a treasure hunt, but ready-made online for you. Download the Geocaching app and start searching for boxes of hidden treasure in your local area. It works by GPS and it’ll also tell you if anyone you know has signed the book already. You can download the app to find geocaches in your area.
7. Find a bridge and play pooh sticks
If you have a steam near you, collect some sticks then drop them from a bridge into the water upstream and see who’s stick gets to the other side first. Simple fun that kids, adults and even dogs just love!
8. Get arty with stones, stick and leaves
While outdoors, collect things you find along the way, like leaves, sticks and stones, to make a picture with when you get home. Why not decorate the stones with paint – and leaves are also great for printing with paint. You can also press flowers and leaves for your children to make into cards or pictures a few weeks later. Older children may like the challenge of a handmade wreath, flower arrangement or making their own perfume from petals.
9. Test your balance
Make an obstacle course out of fallen trees or rocks on the floor – see if your children (and you!) can keep your balance while walking across logs and see how long you can go without touching the ground, jumping between trees stumps or rocks. See what else you can find along to play with along the way and use your imagination to explore.
10. Perfect your photography skills
Take a camera or phone with you so your children can take lots of photos of the unusual things they spot on your walks and then they can research them or create a scrap book when you get home.
And finally, for those rainy days, get the wellies on and go jump in puddles!
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