Taking Fun Walks With Your Kids

Family Walking with Child and Dog
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Once your children can get around on their own two feet, walking with them becomes enjoyable and challenging in new ways. While you may use a stroller for younger kids, they will be able to build up stamina for walking for longer times and distances.

Walking with your children and setting a good example of participating in regular exercise is an excellent way to build a love of being active while creating lasting memories as a family. Keep reading for advice on how to get your kids engaged in family walks.

Why Kids Should Go for Walks

Television, computer, video games, and other screen time are tempting kids to remain more inactive than they perhaps would otherwise. In the past, kids were more active and spent more time outdoors.

Fears of stranger danger and lack of good pedestrian paths also make parents afraid of letting their children walk to school, the store, or the playground.

Children ages 6 through 12 need 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for good health. That is the equivalent of 12,000 to 15,000 steps or 5 to 6 miles. However, 81% of adolescents aged 11–17 years are not physically active enough globally.

According to the WHO, common sedentary behaviours include smartphone and tablet use, watching TV, playing video games, computer use, riding in a car, and reading and studying while sitting. Sitting and sedentary behavior have become excessive with children all over the world.

Going for family walks is a simple way of getting everyone more active. Encouraging a routine of daily or frequent walks throughout the week develops healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Even short walks can help instill a pattern of making time for exercise.

Ideas for Family Walks

If you wonder how to work walking time into your family activities, try some of these suggestions:

Family Walking Time

Set aside a family walking time, preferably for a half-hour to an hour, three or more days a week. This will help you achieve the suggested amount of physical activity per day for both you and your kids. Creating a set time helps you be intentional with your walking routine. Research supports the idea that a consistent routine makes sticking to a healthy lifestyle more likely.

If you are able, consider getting a dog that requires being taken for a walk one or more times a day to build a routine. Walk together as a family or rotate turns in taking the dog for its walk. The dog will provide protection for older children who may walk the dog alone, reducing stranger danger.

Walking Events

Spice up your walking by entering walking events such as charity walks with your child. Your child will have the thrill of earning medals, t-shirts, etc. for being active without competition. Walking events can provide a structure for motivating your whole family, especially if a charity is involved.

Use Technology

Children love having a fitness tracker to count their steps. Make step counting into a game and have them keep track, or guess how many steps it will be from home to the playground, etc. Fitbit and Garmin both have devices designed specifically for kids.

Pokemon Go is another option to take your children's love of technology to the streets. Many families stroll while playing this virtual reality game. Kids love catching Pokemon with their parents and grandparents. It's a great excuse to visit local parks where there are more Pokestops.

The app gives walking goals of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), 5 kilometers (3.2 miles), and 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to hatch eggs for new Pokemon.

How to Motivate Kids

The "Are we there yet?" syndrome is a fact of life for most parents walking with children. Children expect constant challenges and entertainment. You may have to work to keep their interest up and the whining down.

Explore Nature with Maps and Books

Take along guidebooks for flowers, trees, and birds and try to "bag" new examples on each walk. Keep a journal of each new find you discover or consider taking pictures and making digital notes to review later.

Give your child the map (either on paper or the one on your phone) and teach your child how to read maps, identify north and south, and navigate. Encourage your child to draw a map of the route as you go along. You can use a mapping app on your phone and show your child how to use it.

Plan Rewards

Plan rewards along the way. Make your turnaround at a store or market where you can buy a nutritious treat such as fresh fruit. Bring along treats or prizes to give at milestones along the way.

Include playgrounds, streams, parks, and other points of interest on your walking route. Reward your children by stopping at these highly desirable spots for them to explore and enjoy their surroundings.

Use Fun and Games

Try playing walking games. These can be similar to the games you would play in the car, such as I Spy. But you can also include active games such as Follow the Leader or playing catch as you walk.

Use the walking time to get to know your child. Have a question of the day to explore beliefs, values, and talents. Or plan trivia about nature or your neighborhood to quiz your kids along the route.

Get your child a sports watch and encourage your child to track the time, distance, splits, and play with the stopwatch function. Kids can try to increase their time, distance, or steps week over week as a fun, motivating challenge.

Plan for variety. Adults may be happy with the same route day after day, but children are more easily bored. Change the route through the neighborhood, and see new things.

A Word From Verywell

It may seem increasingly challenging to motivate your kids (or yourself) to be active. With a commitment to a family walk a few times per week or even daily, you'll add quality time together with creating healthy habits that can both last a lifetime.

Use a few motivating tricks to increase the desire to go for walks, keep your kids engaged, and have fun. Focusing your routine on kid-friendly aspects of being outdoors, including taking time to stop and interact with the scenery, is ideal. Before you know it, your kids will be requesting more frequent walks.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barnett TA, Kelly AS, Young DR, et al. Sedentary behaviors in today’s youth: approaches to the prevention and management of childhood obesity: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018;138(11).

  2. Chaput JP, Willumsen J, Bull F, et al. 2020 WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour for children and adolescents aged 5–17 years: Summary of the evidence. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2020;17(1):141.

  3. Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The importance of creating habits and routineAm J Lifestyle Med. 2018 Dec 29;13(2):142-144. doi:10.1177/1559827618818044

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.