ME – I was a walk-to-school, walk-to-the-park, walk-to-the-shops and walk-to-the-neighbours-with-a-bag-of-lemons kind of kid. MY kids…well let’s just say they are a chauffeur driven lot.
A mix of a busy life-style and semi-rural location has forced our primary-school aged family to become regular seat-belt wearers, rushing from place to place. Along the way, I was being bombarded by messages to exercise regularly, to stay connected with my kids and to switch off the box and get outside. I KNEW I needed to make some changes – and I knew I needed to set an example.
Nostalgic flash-back….remember walking?
Walking really is a simple exercise. Google walking today and any expert will readily offer up that walking can maintain a healthy weight, improve your fitness and reduce disease, set up a healthy habit for life and it’s pretty social too!
It got me to thinking…could I bring the humble walk back into our household without being given my marching orders as a matriarch?
Walking does suit motherhood
Author for Walking for Health and Fitness, Dr Helen Vause is a long time walker, mother and advocate for walking. She says that walking suits women because it nestles in nicely with the balance of career and family, and because mostly women also like the social aspect that comes with walking, supporting one another and incorporating kids into the mix.
You can’t argue with that. So one year ago, I decided it was time to strap on the sneakers, double-knot the shoelaces and get out on the footpath.
Walking can become a habit
I declared once a week was WalkTall Wednesday. Rather lame title, but it tickled the kids fancy, and set up an expectation that this was an activity we did together regularly. It also tied in nicely with a quieter day on our extra-curricular calendar and being in the middle of the week, it gave us a chance to catch up on school yard issues and sibling challenges while we walked. .
My kids have come to see it as a time to download thoughts, and I’ve enjoyed that I am totally focussed on them without any distractions.
Stay one step ahead of the kids
I foresaw that it could be difficult to get my kids motivated to walk on a regular basis. Hang on, it could be difficult to get ME motivated! So planning ahead has helped. I need to keep my brood occupied, both physically and mentally, even while out walking. Sometimes it was necessary to borrow from themes and activity concepts that reflected their interests, knowledge and moods.
Activities keep them going
I stumbled across a perfect series of stick-on-the-fridge activity sheets at www.victoriawalks.org.au/smartsteps/families/activitysheets and the kids and I had a ball choosing which activity we’d get up to each week….the Nature Bracelet Walk and Remarkable Rubbings Walk have been a big hit and it also encouraged us to match length of time and distance to age groups of the kids.
Name your step games have gone down well too…..Fairy steps, Backwards Steps, Sideways steps, Frog Hop steps, we’ve even had Usain Bolt Fastest man in the World steps…..the sillier the better. The kids loved seeing their folks try to keep up with them.
Bring in the big IT guns
One of my kids is a bit IT-Centric so I found I downloading a few map apps like the Map My Walk app and the Just Start Walking Australia app have been motivating tools to engage him further. I also gave Junior IT dude my iphone a few times to photograph street signs and letterboxes and encouraged him to download them back at home and make them into a powerpoint presentation (yes I know… totally over-thinking it…but it made him keen to walk).
Push past the whinge
I’m a mum of two happy, active kids, but they are also both the masters of whinge! Sometimes Walk Tall Wednesdays was akin to pulling teeth! So taking them on walks under different excuses helped such as minding the neighbours dog and walking it round the block; dropping back a borrowed item to someone who lives the furthest walking distance away; checking out that house up the road that’s being built and I’ve been guilty of walking them a few km’s to the shops for the ice-cream reward!
Storytime meets walking time
My lot love bedtime stories like The Gruffalo and Going on a Bear Hunt…staples of kindergarten’s and primary school reading times. The Gruffalo is a corker as you can have a lot of fun with voices, and it’s a great book to incorporate into outdoor activities.There’s some easy rhyming lines that are kinda catchy, and you can assign a kid to be the Gruffalo – a modern take on “What’s the Time Mr Wolf?” The Gruffalo has often become a staple on the lagging walk back home!
Taking it into the classroom
Something I didn’t predict was that my kids would become such advocates for walking. They are fixated on November being Walk to School Month across Australia, and I’ve also shared with my school some great curriculum based resources out there for schools to register on-line and incorporate walking themes into lesson plans www.victoriawalks.org.au/smartsteps/primary
Walking opens up doors
As cliché as it sounds I’ve really felt more connected with my community thanks to walking.
Just last week a woman up the street invited us in to see her new baby chickens. That’s been the beauty of walking regularly, we’ve gone from passing nods to being a part of a community.
My kids and I know who lives at the letterbox shaped like a wave, the names of the big barky dog at 431; we’ve had tomatoes from the folks up the road and emergency bandaids from the lady with the secret stash of icy-poles. All these people, before walking, we knew nothing about. Now I feel more connected, and as though I am a part of a more aware and safe neighbourhood, and really knowing the community means my kids will be safer as they get older and walk by themselves. You don’t get that from sitting in your lounge room. It didn’t come over night but walking and has helped us nudge our community along a little more. And now, we’re joined by others out walking too.
Not every walk needs to be epic
This was a big lesson for me, one that the kids probably taught me early on. Some days it takes a lot of energy to get out, and somedays you’ve got to pull up stumps early. Not every walk needed to involve activities, or destinations. Some walks have just been a slow amble up the street, and back. But we still walked.
So that’s how I stepped into the slow lane with my kids this year…it’s now part of our weekly family time. It’s one less hour or so in front of the TV or computer screen, it’s one less opening of the fridge for all my guilty pleasures…and it’s been one major way we’ve made some simple changes and connected as a family.
About the author:
Andrea Rowe is a mum of two primary schoolers, who can vaguely remember a pre-kid life of white cushion covers and drinking from cups that didn’t have Tinkerbell or Thomas the Tank on them. When not researching 20 top meals to cook with creamed corn, Andrea has a small copywriting and communications business which keeps her on her toes between the school runs!
Contact: Andrea Rowe, email [email protected]
Based on the pointy end of Victoria’s beautiful Mornington Peninsula.