The daily walk has become A THING in lockdown and we’re all looking for ways to liven up the experience with our kids. We asked Dan Johnson, who created Treasure Map Trails as a way of relieving the lockdown boredom for his children, for his tips on getting the kids outside and having fun.
Create a wildlife diary
Wherever you walk, there will be different wildlife to spot along the way. Getting the kids to record what they see is a fabulous reminder of your adventures, and when you get home they can check out facts about the animals they’ve seen, such as what they eat, where they live and when they come out to play.
Turn your walk into a mud run
If your kids are feeling energetic why not turn your stroll into a run and choose the muddiest route you can find. Distance does not matter, so stop for lots of rest and don’t turn this into an all out sprint. Your kids will love the change of pace, and you can throw in the challenge of a few short races too.
Make up a story for your walk
For years my children thought there really were bears in our local woods! We’d wander along looking for paw prints and scratch marks on trees, and we would freeze at the sound of every snapping twig in case the bears would hear us coming. Every so often someone would shout that they’d seen a bear through the trees, and we’d all run for cover before slowly emerging to continue our adventure.
One thing we’ve learned is that telling the kids we are ‘going for a walk’ leads to groans and moans, but when we add a purpose they can’t wait to get out the door. Planning a scavenger hunt works really well for us. Simply prepare a list of things to find before you go and then tick them off as you spot them.
Build a bug hotel or a wild pile
We used a few woodland walks to collect bits and pieces for a bug hotel, and it has had pride of place in our garden for almost a year now. Before starting, we planned out ‘rooms’ for different creepy crawlies and made a list of what materials they’d need to feel safe and cosy. If you don’t fancy building a bug hotel (ours is certainly a couple of storeys bigger than I was expecting) why not try a wood pile in a quiet corner of your garden instead – the guests will love it just the same.
It’s cold right now but spring is just around the corner and that means trees, plants and flowers will come to life again. There are lots of apps that will help you identify trees by the shape of their leaves, and it’s fascinating to spot the different varieties as you explore.
Take binoculars or a telescope
Bringing binoculars is a great way of getting the kids to stop and appreciate their surroundings, whether you’re walking through woods or spotting interesting features in your local town centre. If your kids are very young, you could even make binoculars from a couple of cardboard tubes – they’ll love bringing them along.
Make a bird feeder
Birds need all the help they can get right now, so why not make your own bird feeders and hang them in the garden. There are loads of different options available and they range in difficulty and messiness, but our go to instructions are on the CBeebies website, https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/makes/bird-feeder. When the birds arrive our kids race to the window to watch the feasting!
Go at night
Everywhere looks different in the dark! We love to take a torch and head out after sundown. It’s amazing how our local woods are transformed at night and every so often our torch beam will reflect in the eyes of a creature staring back at us.
Take a treasure map
I created Treasure Map Trails as a way of livening up trips into town with my own kids. The maps are based on real road layouts and include a few recognisable buildings so kids can find their way around, but we add a fantasy theme to make them even more exciting. The challenge is to find local treasures such as statues, carvings, gargoyles and quirky signs that we never normally stop to take the time to spot. The maps are made for 5 to 12 years olds and each one takes around 90 minutes to complete. As one mum said, they are much more fun than a muddy walk!