Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published March 19th 2012
Do your kids enjoy walking, or do they whine the whole way? In my experience, even the smallest kids can enjoy getting out for a walk, as long as you put some thought into it before you go. Here are my top 10 tips to remember for a successful adventure:
1. Kids' legs are much shorter than yours - so plan for a short walk. I recommend no more than 2km to get started, and you can build up from there, though many very young children can often enjoy walking much longer distances. Comfortable, supporting shoes, like runners, are essential.
2. Make sure there are interesting things along the way - like a beach, a little creek to explore, some wildlife, a playground, interesting tracks and trees - and allow time to explore them.
3. Think about planning a walk which has a cafe in the middle or at the start; there is nothing like the promise of an ice-cream to boost flagging enthusiasm! If there is no cafe en route, bring along some extra-yummy refreshments to have along the way, and make a fuss over it. Sitting down on a picnic rug in the shade is a welcome break.
4. Don't allow your kids to become thirsty, keep fluids up as they go. If they complain they are thirsty, then they are already dehydrated, and little bodies can suffer quickly. The same applies to sun cover: hats, shade and sun-cream are all essential even on cloudy days. If it is going to be warm, choose a walk you know to have lots of shade or the potential for a paddle or a swim, and consider going early in the day before it gets too hot.
5. Get your kids involved in planning or even leading the walk, if they are a little older - show them the map and how to understand it. My son perks up no end when he gets to hold and use the compass or GPS.
6. Give your children a 'job' or challenges along the way. Allowing children to have responsibility for taking photos on the walk, or collecting interesting bits and pieces as they go and putting them in a paper 'treasure' bag to explore later can be lots of fun.
7. Let them bring a friend, or invite another family with kids the same age or a little older, to distract and entertain them along the way.
8. If they are a little older, let them use a 'walking stick', as long as they can use it safely and not run with it or poke out eyes - you can usually find a suitable one along the way.
9. If little legs are tiring before you reach the end, despite everyone's efforts, think about singing games, or 'counting down' the steps, by bundling them into 'let's do 100 steps and see where we get to!'
10. When all else fails, a pocketful of lollies or other bribes, er, incentives can work a treat ('when we reach the top of the hill, let's have a yellow smartie, or you can choose a balloon from my pocket to blow up!')
The Royal Botanic Gardens (The Oak lawns are my kids' favourite, but the squirmy eels in the lake are a close second, and there is a dedicated and very tactile Children's Garden)
Herring Island Sculpture Trail, in the middle of the Yarra River (near Como House and accessed via a free Parks Victoria ferry in January of each year).
The Point Cook Homestead and Coastal Park - lots of fun looking at shells, with shallow waters to wade in, old buildings and machinery and yummy milkshakes at the cafe.
The Heide Sculpture Trail in the Heide Art Gallery gardens (look out for the kitchen gardens and much-loved cows sculpture)
The East-West Track in the You Yangs - largely flat, but lots of rocky interest and a fantastic view of the Bunjil (Wedge Tailed Eagle) Geoglyph rock sculpture down below in the Serendip Sanctuary. This is a slightly longer walk, at 4.5km, so good for slightly older kids.
Where are some of your children's favourite walks? Do you have other tips to share to encourage kids to get out and about and enjoy all that Melbourne has to offer?
Great suggestions! One thing that works with our friends' kids is singing. Sounds weird - you'd think if the kids are tired they'd have no breath for singing, but it works! While they sing, they get up the hill without realising they're doing it. We also have mini competitions - whoever gets to the fencepost etc first is the winner.