Fun Walks for Mental & Physical Fitness

by: Diane Flynn Keith
posted: February 19, 2005

First you step this way, then you... No, no... You've got it all wrong. Do over!

I'm sure you've heard it on the news -- obesity among chidren is epidemic. Kids, like adults, just don't get enough exercise.

Sitting in a classroom or in front of the TV or computer simply doesn't lend itself to physical fitness. Kids in general mimic what the adults in their lives are doing. What kind of a model do you provide for your little kids in terms of getting exercise?

One of the easiest ways to instill a regular exercise routine is to take a daily walk with your child. Now, I know that kids (as well as adults) might think going for a walk every day is boring. But you can spice up your walks in ways that will not only lead to physical fitness but mental fitness too! Here are some ideas to try:

  1. Early Bird Walk

    Get up before the first bird chorus begins at dawn. The first light of day signals birds to begin their chirping and singing. It is a wondrous thing to hear. Wake up just before the sun begins to rise.

    Get dressed and head outside for a walk -- in the dark. Notice how quiet it is -- then, as the first light of day dawns, listen to the incredible bird symphony that breaks the early morning silence. It may just inspire you to take an "Early Bird Walk" every day!

    For some astounding information on birds and their chorus at dawn visit: the BBC: Nature and Science Programs. While this site is geared for adults, if you review it, you'll be well-prepared to answer any of your child's questions on your Early Bird Walk. This is a completely optional idea. The important thing is to go for the walk and relish the incredible sounds of nature with your child.
  2. Weird Walks

    Who says you have to walk by putting one foot in front of the other? That's too normal and a little boring! Go for a Weird Walk with your kids. Start out in the normal way and then take turns thinking of weird ways to change your walk as you go.

    For example, you can walk backwards, or walk in a straight line by deliberately putting one foot in front of the other, or walk stiffly like a robot, or march- walk like a soldier, or walk loosey-goosey like you don't have bones, or walk very slowly, or walk really fast, or take three normal steps and then hop on one foot for a while, or walk for ten paces and then jump as far as you can, or walk on your tiptoes, or walk on your heels, or kick a rock while you walk, or walk sideways, or walk and then skip for a while, or walk and then run for a distance, or walk but avoid sidewalk cracks by going around them or jumping over them -- you get the idea.
  3. They sure make this look easy on tv... Just a few more steps... oops...
  4. Emo Walks

    Let the way you walk reflect the way you feel. We all have emotional ups and downs. You and your child can walk like you're happy, walk like you're sad, walk like your mad, walk like a bully, walk like you're shy, walk like a king or queen, walk like the weight of the wolrd is on your shoulders, walk like this is the best day of your entire life!
  5. Follow The Leader Walks

    Take turns leading the way. Let your child decide what direction you will go when you come to a corner or a fork in the road. Or flip a coin: tails - you walk to the right; heads - you walk to the left. Always point out landmarks and the street signs and the names of the streets as you go. It will help your child to get to know your neighborhood and how to find their way around it.
  6. Kick The Can Walk

    Get an empty aluminum soda can and try to kick it as you walk. Can you kick it for a whole block? Can you kick it for your whole walk? Be sure to pick up the can and bring it home to recycle if you get tired of kicking it. :)
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    Scavenger Hunt Walks

    Before you go on a walk, ask your child to help you make a list of things you want to try to find on your walk. Take the list with you and check off the things you find.

    For example: a red flower, a smooth pebble, an ant, dog poop, a wreath on someone's front door, a car with a dent, a yard full of weeds, the smell of something cooking, a stop sign, a white picket fence, a cat, a friendly neighbor, an edible plant (herbs growing in a garden, a nut tree, or fruit tree, etc.), a child's toy, a cloud, etc.
  8. Go for a Word Walk

    Look for words as you walk. You'll see them on street signs, on some car license plates, on advertising billboards, on signs or logos on trucks and busses, on welcome plaques by front doors, in gardens on plant stakes, on notices posted on telephone poles (like garage sales, etc.), on newspapers in driveways, on pieces of paper dropped on the sidewalk, on recycling containers and trash cans, on "For Sale" signs, etc.

    It's okay if your kids can't read the words, just have them point them out -- and then tell them what the words say. It's helps with recognition of sight words and they will see that reading is a skill people need and use everyday. :)
  9. Take a Math Walk

    Look for examples of math as you walk. Look for numbers and geometric shapes.

    You'll find numbers on houses, painted on curbs, on mail boxes, on license plates, on signs with phone numbers, on dates printed on newspapers, on manholes and water meter covers, etc.

    Look for different geometrical shapes as you walk. Stop signs are octagons, street signs and window frames are rectangles or squares - and sometimes you'll see arches, wheels on cars are circles, yield signs are triangles, look for diamond shapes in some window panes, or decorative accents that include star shapes or trapezoids.

    Look for symmetrical patterns -- where one side looks like the other. For example, you'll see symmetry in leaves and flowers, as well as man-made structures such as houses.

    It's okay if your child doesn't know the name of the number or the shape -- just have them point it out and tell them the name. It helps develop their sight recognition of numbers and shapes, improves their vocabulary as you use the correct terminology for various shapes, and it helps them to see that math is everywhere in their environment.
  10. Moon Walks

    Walk at night, by the light of the moon. Everything looks different in the dark. Be sure to wear light-colored clothing so you can be seen more easily by traffic -- reflective tape on clothing is a good idea.

    Bring a flashlight but instruct your children not to flash it in windows of houses you pass by, or into the eyes of other night-walkers you pass, or into the eyes of drivers of oncoming cars. In fact, if you want to get the most from your night vision try not to use your flashlight. Your eyes will adjust to the darkness after a few minutes and you will be able to see quite well without the assistance of the flashlight. Moonlight and city street lights will provide all the light you need.

    Notice the stars, look for night critters like owls and raccoons, listen to the sounds -- what do you hear? Can you hear birds chirping? Is it more or less quiet than it is in the daylight?
  11. I know I saw that lizard around here somewhere...
  12. Nature Walks

    Look for as many natural things as you can find while you walk.

    Nature is all around us, so you can point out whatever you see in nature, or you can look for specific things each time you walk. For example, on a general nature walk, point out plants, animals, rocks, weather, etc.

    On a specific nature walk, look for as many kinds of trees as possible, or identify as many flowers as you can, or look for a variety of weeds, or notice the different kinds of bugs and spiders you see along the way, or look for species of birds or animals, or look for various kinds of rocks, or point out different cloud formations, or look for different sources of water.

    Don't forget to pick up dried leaves, feathers, nuts and seedpods, stones, and other nature items you find along the way.

    Make a nature bracelet to collet natural items on your walk. Take a piece of ribbon and tie it loosely on your child's wrist. Take a double sided piece of tape and put it on the ribbon. Your child can stick leaves, feathers, petals, and twigs found along the path to the bracelet and keep it as a memento of your Nature Walk.

Have fun walking with your little ones!

Note: You can't collect plants, pick flowers, harm plants or animals, pick up any type of plant skeletons, collect wood, or pick up archaeological or historical objects or even take rocks from both National and State Parks. It is illegal and there are serious penalties for breaking the law. Be sure to read the signs and obey the rules.