How to ramble with your kids and ensure they love it
Our top tips for getting started
Going for a ramble with your children may feel a bit daunting, as they can be unpredictable and emotional, cautious one minute and fearless the next. But get it right, and it can be one of the most rewarding, inspiring and connecting things you can do as a family plus, you might just instill a love of walking in the next generation, while you’re at it.
Feeling inspired to get your family walking? Read these tips before you embark on that first adventure…
How to prepare for a ramble
When you have children with you, choosing a walk where there’s good parking and toilets is essential. You’ll also want to aim to walk when conditions are settled and the temperatures mild. Even on a short stroll, the cold or heavy rain will dampen youngsters’ enthusiasm. That said, if you’re up for the challenge, there are plenty of great outdoor gear options for kids – from snowsuits for babies to puddle suits for toddlers and rain jackets for children.
Kids enjoy going on adventures, so use the planning stage of your walk to get their imagination going. Spread out some maps, show them photos of where you’re going, tell them about the wildlife they might spot and the fun things they can do while walking. Get them excited at this stage, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a great family day out.
What type of footwear is best for rambling?
The type of footwear you choose can depend on where you’ll be walking. If you’re sticking to even, well-marked paths, then you’ll just want something lightweight and flexible, particularly when they’re on little legs. Whereas if you’re walking over rocky ground, then you’ll want something with a stiffer sole and good ankle support, though particularly precipitous areas are probably best avoided unless your children have a lot of experience.
Of course, some walks feature different types of terrain, so ultimately a good walking shoe or boot should always fit properly and be comfortable to move in. Ideally, it’ll also be waterproof and offer good arch support, too, especially for your little puddle jumper!
And don’t forget the socks! Wearing a proper walking sock can make all the difference to the enjoyment of your ramble as they are designed to be breathable, wick sweat away from the skin, provide padding, resist friction, avoid bunching and not cause blisters. Taking spares for you and the kids is also always a good idea, as they’re more likely to misjudge the depth of a particularly tempting pile of mud!
What should you take with you on your walk?
If you’re walking with a baby or toddler, you’ll need the usual essentials like baby wipes, nappies, milk, lots of snacks such as oat bars or chopped fruit, and bottles of water or juice. It’s also worth carrying a small first aid kit, including blister plasters, and bringing a change of clothes. And even if the weather looks beautiful, it’s always a great idea to pack some waterproof jackets, just in case.
A rucksack worn on your back with the straps on both shoulders is the best way to carry everything, as it will free up your arms and offer you full movement when walking. Why not get a children’s version too, so your little one can pretend to be just like you?
How far should you walk?
If you’re walking with a baby, don’t be too ambitious – keep your first outing short and simple. If you’re using a pram, you’ll need wheel-friendly terrain without stiles and kissing gates. Slings and rucksack-style child carriers will allow you to get off the beaten track, but it’s still best to be cautious at first. Circular routes with the option of a shortcut back if your baby has a meltdown or if you get tired are best.
As a loose rule, you can expect a child to be able to walk one mile per year of their age, but you know your child best, and will know when it’s time to call it a day – in fact, they may well make that decision for you. Toddlers, in particular, can have very firm opinions about where they want to go, what pace they want to go at, and whether they want to walk there themselves!
What kids need to know about walking in the country
Before you go on your walk, you need to make your little ones aware of how important it is to be mindful and respectful of farms and farm animals, especially during the spring when cows and sheep are rearing their young.
They should know to avoid getting between any animals and their young, and that they should try to move quickly and quietly and, if possible, walk around a herd. If they’re walking your dog, they should be able to keep it under control, as they’ll need to keep it close and on a short lead when near animals – horses especially, as they can easily frighten. They’ll also need to understand the importance of closing gates behind them. Click here for some great advice about walking near wildlife from the Ramblers.
How to keep your kids keen throughout
Older children and teens will love anywhere with fantastic views – not only so they can enjoy it at the time, but also so they can share them on social media afterwards. With toddlers and children, however, go practical, fun and simple.
Choose a varied, interesting and fun route you know they can handle physically and finish before boredom strikes. Long moorland trudges or uphill slogs can be off-putting to kids, so instead think rivers, woodlands, stepping-stones, waterfalls, beaches, castles, tunnels and bridges.
If you’re walking with your dog, allow the youngsters to take the lead, or let them take charge of the mapping app, to make them feel like they have an important role to play. If they’re too young for that, keep them engaged by showing them where you are on a map or teach them how to use binoculars so they can spot birds.
A café, pub or shop for refreshments along the way will also help boost any flagging spirits (yours and theirs). Plus, the promise of an ice cream or a hot chocolate at the end of the walk can be a good motivator!
Turn it into an adventure with a natural treasure hunt
A great way to get kids interacting with the natural environments around them is to get them seeking out all the best sights and sounds as part of a game.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
Cannock Chase is the smallest AONB in the country. Small, but perfectly formed. And just the right size for little legs to find big adventures.
Child-friendly walks with maximum reward for minimal effort exploring the fells, valleys and lakes of the Lake District National Park.