Walking with children can be enormous fun but often also includes an element of determined reluctance, particularly as the day goes on or the paths turn uphill. Here at Fi Darby Freelance we’ve been busy creating some downloadable child-friendly maps for our local area. We’re very pleased with the results. If you want a few more tips on how to encourage children on a walk, read on!
Encouraging children on a walk
Realistic routes, walking games, songs and tasty snacks can all help encourage younger adventurers to keep going (or even start going in the first place) but my most successful walking with children tip has long been to get them involved in the navigation. It works with all age groups (including adults). I’ve thought a lot about why this is,
- Leading the way can give youngsters a sense of being in charge
- Sharing navigation can encourage team spirit
- Map reading breaks a walk into manageable chunks
- Navigating gives youngsters a stake in the outcome of a walk
- Measuring progress against a map can increase motivation levels
- Most youngsters enjoy learning new skills
Tips for teaching children navigation
Learning to read a map is tricky, working out how to teach other people to do it takes even longer. Navigation is a complicated but rewarding business, and perhaps not something you want to be learning whilst juggling the family, the dog and the jam sandwiches.
You’ll be pleased to hear there are some simple navigation tasks that allow for harmonious map reading lessons. Here are a few suggestions,
- Reading the map yourself, but showing them symbols, ask children to look out for the next feature as you walk. Examples might include an uphill section, a path junction or a trig point. Before each leg and when you reach each feature, show the children what it looks like on the map.
- On your compass set the correct bearing for your next section. Give the compass to your child, and show them how to walk with it correctly lined up. Be prepared for a few deviations in both direction and time taken.
- Before you leave home, get the map out and work with your child to create a tick list of things you’ll pass on your walk. Ticking features off on a list is really good navigation practice. It’s also a great way to encourage everyone to keep moving.
Another map-reading-for-children tip is to create your own child-friendly version of the map you’re going to use. By removing some of the layers of information, you’ll reduce the possibility of confusion, and improve success rates.
The scale and accuracy of your home made map won’t matter at this stage. Try to include things your child is likely to notice, or will want to go and find. Trees, houses, roads and paths are all good to keep, as are play areas and ice-cream shops (but be warned, an ice-cream on a map constitutes a promise of tasty delights, whatever your age).
Maps for children
Of course if you don’t feel your map reading skills are up to creating your own map, you can always use one someone else has made for you. We’ve just started working on a lovely set of child-friendly maps for our Devon family walks in Torbay. Each one is downloadable and comes with walk instructions, team building ideas, and a fun game to play on your walk.
There are some other really good examples of child-friendly walks and maps out there. If you plan to be walking with children in the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors, Lake District or Peak District, we really liked the look of the Walking Books, Making Tracks series.
Happy healthy family walks
Of course the tips above are all easier if you have some basic map reading skills yourself. We work with Two Blondes Walking, who run beginners’ navigation workshops on Dartmoor. Feel free to get in touch with us there if you want to find out more.
If you find yourself in the Torbay area, you can enjoy our family walks here. If you run a hospitality business you think would benefit from offering child-friendly walks do feel free to contact us at Fi Darby Freelance.
Happy walking, and if you’re taking snacks, don’t forget to pack a bag to take your rubbish home in!