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A walk in the country...

Family walks with Under 8s

Pre-kids, my husband and I would while away a sunny Sunday afternoon atop the highest nearby hill. We'd sip wine, nibble snacks and read the papers or a favourite book. Parents reading this will likely nod when I share that once our first child was born, this routine changed. Baby boy wasn't keen on lounging--he wanted to do things and see people. He was impatient to get moving! So, sunny Sunday walks soon replaced our laze on the hill.

At first, we'd pop our firstborn into a Baby Bjorn. Then, when he reached 9 months, we upgraded to a baby backpack and were off. Once our youngest came along, there was a short period when our firstborn would ride in the baby backpack and our second born would ride in the Baby Bjorn. Then, when our eldest turned 3, suddenly, we were limited by the distance that his little feet could travel.

While I really enjoyed all those sunny Sundays lounging on the hill, we now love that active, satisfied feeling that comes after going on a family walk. As Londoners, these walks give us a great reason to get into the country and let our boys see some nature. Climb a tree. Pretend a rotten stump is a stew pot. Skip stones. 

Here are a few lessons we've learned with our now 3 and 5 year olds along the way....

  • DISTANCE: For our family, the perfect walk is 4 miles. While these sorts of hikes would typically take adults about an hour, little ones require lots of snack breaks and little feet move slowly, so a 4 mile hike would typically take our crew 4 hours, including a lunch break and ~3 snack/water breaks (and lots of stops to climb trees and have a look at something interesting). 
  • ACTIVITY: It helps to have an activity to break things up along the walk. We often stop along the route to race sticks or boats on the stream, play nature bingo, play a quick game of ball battle, throw stones into a target drawn with sticks. Anything will do. 
  • SNACKS: Take along one water bottle per person, 5 sorts of snacks with enough for everyone in the group, and a modest lunch. While many country walks are choreographed to include a pub lunch and mid-afternoon tea spot, little feet go slow and kitchens are often closed by the time our family finally arrives. 
  • DIFFICULTY: Obviously pay special attention to the walk's difficulty rating. Stick to a walk rated 1-2 in difficulty (basically flat). Otherwise, you'll end up carrying them on your shoulders uphill. Not fun. 
  • DESTINATION: We've done many lovely walks within an hour of London. We typically take an adult walk and trim it to size. Recent favourites include the Petts Wood Circular, the Octavia Hill Centenary (Sevenoaks) and a lovely walk along the Thames by Maidenhead. Here's a link to a few walks to get you started.
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