Want some tried and tested ways of keeping little feet moving to the end of your walk? Try these three games out on your next hike.
If you’ve tried walking with small(er) children (and possibly bigger ones too) you’ll know the familiar whining voice that starts up sooner or later: ‘Are we there yet?’, ‘How much further?’, ‘I don’t want to walk up that hill?’, etc.
The reality is that a child’s stamina is often dictated by their interest levels and imagination rather than their energy levels.
Choosing the right walk or bringing a friend are important but I’ve found that having a few games or challenges up your sleeve is a great way to get over any mental road block. These are all variations on well-known games but try applying them in the context of a walk and see if they work.
A final note: these should work fine with a 4-6yo. I’ll report back on effectiveness with older children in a couple of years.
Game 1: Tell a (never-ending) story
How it works
Make up a story (preferably related to something your children love) and tell it to them as they walk along. Keep them engaged by prompting for details on the story (eg. the names of characters or where they might be traveling). If all goes to plan they’ll soon forget about how far they’ve walked (and how far there is to go).
This one got me through Day 2 of my five-year old’s first overnight hike. It was searing hot and she was already exhausted after a morning’s play. After threats and enticements, she still wouldn’t budge from where she stood (only 100 metres from where we had broken camp!). Finally she responded to the offer of a story.
The story of Za Za the fairy princess and her 11 sisters and 3 brothers got us through the next hour up a steep, rocky ascent. Marilla chimed in at regular intervals with suggestions for the dragonfly’s name or the various accidents that had befallen the fairy population at the fairy hospital. Za Za has successfully returned on a few walks since!
Game 2: The Alphabet List Game
How it works
Choose a category of things (eg. animals, countries or vegetables and fruits) and try to name one or two things that start with each letter of the alphabet. You can also sub-categorise them (eg. 1 x fruit and 1 x vegetable). Simple but effective! You’ll be amazed at how quickly the obstacles and kilometres pass by.
My partner Jane actually came up with this one… On our return from Michael Morton Lookout in the eponymous Morton NP, Marilla was adamant she would not walk the 1.3km or so back to the car. I stayed behind to pack up and caught up with her and Jane a bit further down the trail, deep in the midst of a fruit and vegetable alphabet game: D is for distraction! Despite a bull ant bite (to Jane thankfully – she’s a bit more resilient) we made it back with only minimal complaints We’ve tried this on a few other walks too, sometimes at Marilla’s request.
Game 3: The Best…
How it works
This one works if there’s a competitive streak in your child: make up a game about being the best at something (eg. bushwalker) and set some goals. A prize is sort of mandatory. OK, so this is really bribery but there is a game element to it.
On our second walk of a camping trip (still in Morton NP), Marilla was decidedly unexcited about our Fitzroy Falls walk. Armed with a fruit box drink we had bought in the supermarket, I proposed a ‘best bushwalker game’: whoever was the best bushwalker would get to drink the juice when we stopped for lunch.
To win, Marilla had to be the first to get to the next lookout (there were a lot along the way). She happily trotted along ahead of us asking how she was doing as we went. Mummy won one or two legs but Marilla was triumphant in the end (though the real win was exactly how far we got – further than we had imagined). She happily slurped up the fruit box next to a shady creek. The journey back was another story, however… But luckily we still had the Alphabet game!
What do you do?
Let me know if any of these games work for you. If you’ve discovered some magic tricks to get your child to the end of the walk, I’d love to know too…