When you think of family traditions, holidays might come to mind first, but often it's the smaller things that children remember and carry on in adulthood with their own kids. One tradition that will benefit them for the rest of their lives is the family walk. While it may sound simple and boring, it is far from both. Instilling healthy habits such as exercise into your children's daily routines is essential--and walking is ideal exercise for all ages. You may be shaking your head already, wondering how you're supposed to add a half hour of walking to your already over-scheduled day. Do it the same way your kids learned to walk when they were toddlers: one step at a time.
The first step is to make the decision to walk daily as a family, and the second step is to decide when. It's most important that the time be convenient for you and your family. After dinner is ideal for many because it allows time to wind down and digest a big meal. You don't need any special equipment to start, but there are a few things you should consider:
- Comfortable shoes and loose clothing
- Light-coloured or reflective clothing in the late evening and after dark
- No electronics allowed
- Stay on the footpath or walk facing oncoming traffic
- Cross the street only at pedestrian crossings
How long you walk and what you do while walking depends mainly on your health and the ages of your children. If you have health issues, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen. He or she could offer tips and parameters on beginning your walking tradition.
Make a short list of open-ended questions and interesting subjects to pose to your kids while walking. This can range from a game of "I Spy" for younger children to critiquing car models for teenagers. If your teenagers complain about the enforced family time, let them invite their friends along. Some suggested walking topics include:
- The names of plants, birds and insects, you see on your route
- The length of each person's steps
- Maths or spelling quizzes
- Different places you'd like to walk
- Noticing changes on your route
- Dreams and plans for the future
- Stories from when you or their grandparents were young
It's your tradition. You can make up or modify the rules as you progress. You might decide to let the kids take turns thinking up the walking topics, or you could get a guide book on bird watching or insects that can be referred to when you get home. You might like to get a pedometer to measure your distance. If you walk more than a few blocks, consider getting each family member their own water bottle.