10 Tips To Get Your Child Walking

The Miners Way and Historical Trail
Doorly Park, Sligo. Photo by Alan Finn

Often getting involved in group activities is the best way for people to get active. Enrolling in a class, joining a community group, taking a walk with some friends, all are great ways to get active and motivated.

Walking is a great way for anyone to get active. Unlike other sports, you need no particular skills or experience. You can get walking relatively inexpensively – an outdoor jacket and some walking boots for starters – and you can do it at any time of year, in any location. It just needs someone to say “Come on, let’s go!” and get the body moving. Inevitably, you’ll be set up for the rest of the day if you get that body moving.

But it can be a bit of a challenge to get family members involved – especially the kids, and in this age of childhood obesity it’s important that we can make walking as much of a fun experience as possible for all age groups and levels of fitness.

The website GetIrelandActive.ie has some handy tips on getting all members of the family walking. According to their research four out of five Irish children don’t get enough exercise. But rather than focussing on the negative, let’s look at some simple steps to get kids and adults alike motivated and moving. Here are ten tips to get started.

Start small. Don’t pile it on too soon, maybe ten minutes to begin with would be a good starting point to get people interested rather than running the risk of putting them off with anything too active. A short walk with an activity included would mean that the time will fly and will leave the kids looking for more.

Lead by example. Children are five times more likely to get active if their parents already are. If your children see the positive health benefits you’re getting from exercise, they will more than likely want to follow suit. It’s estimated that children need a minimum of one hour of exercise per day, and they are more likely to participate if the rest of the family shows the way.

Make it fun. To encourage younger children, play games, like skipping or rhyming games and bring a ball – provided you aren’t walking along the road. Ask relatives to provide gifts that can be used for exercise such as a football, skipping rope, hula hoop, and if they are uncertain, ask for vouchers for any of the outdoor or sports shops in Sligo.

Team up. Get other families involved. There’s nothing like having a friend along to inspire your child to get exercising. A natural competitiveness will probably occur too, ensuring you get to walk at your own pace while the kids probably shoot on ahead.

Show an interest. Your child is likely to be involved at some level in sport or outdoor activities at school or with the local club. Go along and support the team, remembering that encouragement is key, rather than focussing on winning.

Limit screen time. A growing problem is the amount of time children spend on screens and devices, and the amount of devices available. Maybe a trade off could be arranged – the child gets to access screen time as a reward for some jobs around the house which require some physical activity, like cleaning up, hoovering, walking the dog, etc.

Ignore the weather. Unless you are met by a Beast from the East, get used to the rain, and dress accordingly. A light mac is useful and a backpack so that an extra layer can be added or removed is also a useful idea. Bring a bottle of water and maybe a healthy snack for longer walks.

Bring the pet. If you have a dog, there’s no better excuse as they’ll need walking every day. If you don’t have one, what about offering to walk your neighbour’s dog? No harm in asking, and you could be doing them a favour too.

Lose the remote. Turn off the TV before your child gets home from school and hide the remote control. OK, it’s probably a bit extreme but if your child doesn’t have the option of automatically heading for the TV after getting in from school, they might be more inclined to head out into the garden to kick a ball.

Variety. Make sure you try different walks, gradually building it up in terms of time and distance. There are lots of walks available once you walk out the door, and more if you take a short spin out to one of the many walks available on the SligoWalks.ie website.