Right after people ask how we get the kids to sign on for long car trips, a follow-up question about our walking habits gets thrown in the mix.
How far do your kids actually walk?
This varies. Last year, during the first wave of COVID lockdowns, we had a 7 km route we walked almost daily. This year we’re a bit rusty and it’s more likely to be a casual 5 km.
We’ve done some long trails with the kids (10+ km); our daughter first walked Cape Split when she was 8 years old. Last summer we did a 7 km morning walk around town and then headed out for an afternoon hike. By day’s end, my then-5-year-old had clocked in at 18 km, with no complaints and relatively little time spent up on parental shoulders. This is a pretty uncommon distance though. During the school year, the kids basically just walk to school (<2 km) and call it a day.
HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE WALKING INTO DAILY LIFE?
The 7- and 5-km routes we walk as a family are for exercise. It’s a great time for us (as parents) to be completely removed from our devices and the lure of work (we both work from home).
One of the biggest factors in our decision to buy a home in our current town was the fact we could walk to school. And we do. Last year we drove to school LESS THAN 10 TIMES. I love that this is the way our very energetic kiddos get to start their day. We walk quickly but tend to pair up parent-child, so each child gets some nice one-on-one time with an adult. There is fresh air, exercise, and all the good stuff walking provides, along with opportunities to bond and discuss things/play games.
WHEN DO YOU WALk?
We prefer to walk first thing in the morning. During summer vacation this happens before breakfast. The kids will take a granola bar, some dried fruit, or a muffin along. It’s cooler, the kids are rested, no need for sunscreen where we live, and it’s a great launch point for the rest of the day.
HOW MUCH TO THE KIDS COMPLAIN? HOW DO you fill the time?
This ebbs and flows. Like road trips, the key is practice. Most of the complaining happens before we leave: Do we have to go on a walk today? I’m so tired. But once we get started, they’re generally caught up in the fun of whatever game we’re playing. My husband is really great at this: he’ll come up with little obstacles for them (climb over this rock, walk backwards 4 paces), play word games, and talk through future adventures. For example, we might discuss plans for a birthday party – months and months before the big event. Before COVID brought things to a halt, we were scheduled for travel to the US to visit one of my siblings. For weeks the entire walk to school involved discussions of the airport experience, what to pack, what pranks we’d play (fill a diaper with melted chocolate; set up and decorate a Christmas tree overnight in my sister’s living room – in May). Sometimes the kids just count cars, guess who we’ll see along the walk, or play the quiet game where we see who can stay quietest the longest. It rarely lasts long, but it is certifiably glorious.
Years and years ago, when our daughter was an infant and I was anxious to lose some stubborn postpartum weight, we just started walking.
It’s cheap and a great way to experience nature. We also find it’s a wonderful way to foster conversation (meaningful discussions are harder to have when biking or downhill skiing!).
Any equipment recommendations?
Walking is pretty low maintenance. Good footwear is important. Good-fitting sneakers, a warm pair of winter boots and a waterproof pair of year-round boots, all-terrain hiking shoes, and lots of socks that adequately cover the heel and ankles (I don’t think either kid has experienced the torture of a blister yet, thankfully) are about all you need to get started!
The biggest “equipment” purchase we made was a BabyJogger stroller. We’ve had two of these through the years, both purchased second-hand. They were worth every penny. Such a smooth ride, good safety features, easy to collapse and store and take in the car. Some of the major jogging stroller brands have standing boards for kids that are too big for the stroller, but too little to walk a long distance. For both kids we left them in the stroller far later than most of their peers simply due to the length of the walks we went on.
A good daypack is handy; we have one from MEC that we’ve used for years. It’s small and light, but can hold a surprising amount of stuff (a towel, water, snacks, sunscreen, keys and cellphones, toilet paper).
A total luxury and certainly not an “essential,” but I love using my Apple Watch to measure the distance and pacing of our walks. A much cheaper alternative – my daughter has a $25 amazon-purchased smartwatch that is waterproof and measures most of the same metrics.