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Bushwalking with Kids: Benefits and Tips

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by Lesley Mitchell (subscribe)
Author/lecturer/Intuitive/Natural Therapist/Artist/Soap-Maker/Chef. WEBS: or Also find us under RenascentBathBody or RenascentCollege on eBay, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram
Published April 17th 2012
You used to love bushwalking. You'd be off at the drop of a hat, adventure a foot, but then life changed, along came kids and the bushwalking got shelved. I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to.
Rekindle your joy of seeing things through young eyes again, everything becomes wonderous

When I was pregnant, there were all the usual horror stories people love to tell pregnant mums, but I noticed as an avid lover of reading and travel, these were the 2 topics people would delight in advising me would never happen again. Well, happen again they did and somehow the children (yes, we kept travelling and another one just beautifully slid in there too) not only 'allowed' us to travel, they got us on planes as priority, the best seats in buses, friends that we may never have otherwise met and enriched the experiences even more by sharing them.

When they were too little to walk, we popped them in backpacks and took off all over the world. They loved seeing the sights from up high and we fondly remember the time one fell asleep in the heat of Kathmandu and started dribbling down my husband's neck. Ah well, at least it was cool. When we got tired, we'd carefully peel the backpack off, prop it up with cushions on the floor of a local café and enjoy a quiet cuppa together. When they woke up, we'd all be refreshed and ready to go again.

Hiking the Great wall at 3 years
Bushwalking changed a little as we needed to regularly stop to look at a butterfly or wonder at a bug or be fascinated over a pile of droppings, but even those things add to the experience and you get to experience life afresh all over again.

The key to an enjoyable bushwalk with your little ones is to find a walk that gives them varied points of interest. If they are young, make it fairly short too, so they don't end up exhausted.

A fun idea is to add something special during or after the bushwalk. Perhaps some treats in a backpack handed out at points along the way (we have a treats box which we all now refer to as the 'happy box'). Perhaps you may find a cafe at the end of the walk or some fruit picking along the way.
A few little thoughts will create a bushwalking experience that everyone looks forward to, and will want to do again.
Children discover new textures, experiences and sensory adventures

So how to get started?
Really all you need for this great family adventure is supportive shoes and comfortable clothes.

Babies on backs in Kathmandu
Walking tips to get you started:
Consider taking the dog – it gives them something to focus on and your furry friend will love you for it.

Don't think you must limit yourself to lengthy hikes, start off with a walk around the city or some visits to special places.

Check out the internet for self-guided nature walks. They are available for many parks, some even add maps and notes sheets teaching you about plants and animals.

Get a pedometer; the kids will delight in seeing how far they have walked.

Safety tips include:
Start slowly, walk gently and consider the pace of the littlest member, if everyone is coping well, step out into a full stride.

Always let someone know where you're planning to go and contact them upon your return.

Drink water before and after your walk, always carry a water bottle with you, especially if it is hot – little ones get thirsty easily.

Carry a plastic bag and some toilet paper, they will need it in the most unlikely places.

Why bushwalk with kids?
It's a complete sensory experience. All the senses are stimulated during a bushwalk, the kids will love smelling fresh air, admiring sights and colours, tasting waterfalls, listening to wildlife and feeling nature's textures.

It's great to enrich their imagination:
Whether they end up playing in the dirt, or sitting at a flower, new stories will come out, wondering will happen, we often make up stories about the creatures we see on our adventures. You can imagine you are transported to another land.

Seeing nature untamed:
Whilst zoos and parks are great, there is a completely different experience when you encounter an animal in the wild. They are not tamed, they are not expecting you to feed them, and watching and discussing them together enriches a respect for and understanding of wildlife.

Exercise for them and you:
If you have been meaning to shift those extra kilos, get back to the gym and get motivated but it somehow just never happens, this could be just the ticket. You will be energised and with a bit of luck, the kids will be exercised and sleep well when you return home. Simply choose from 100's of different walks in any area to match your family's fitness levels and abilities.

Eco lifestyles:
Allowing children to bushwalk, teaches them many things: they learn to stay on the track, to watch where they are walking, to have respect for plants and creatures and life skills, should they ever get lost and know how to be safe in the bush.

Family Bonding:
We now have a teenager and a younger one, the eldest often doesn't talk, we now interpret the grunts. I now understand that when I say "How was your breakfast?" and the reply is "Hrumph" that is him really meaning to say "Oh it was great mum, thanks for asking, the food was exquisitely delicious". However, whilst bushwalking, the hrumph turns into conversation. Ideas pop up, chatting takes place and unresolved problems come up and get solved all in the matter of a bushwalk. Instead of hrumph, I genuinely get "Thanks mum – that was great", with a big grin thrown in and a hug goodnight.

It's free:
Other than some park fees, bushwalking doesn't cost anything. Finances tight – no problems, lets go bushwalking.

Feel good factor: Achieving a long hike to an outlook brings a sense of achievement, they will often look up once we have returned down and say, "I did that". They love to tell others later where they have been and what they achieved. The grins are all worthwhile bonuses too.

Some great bushwalking tracks to get you started:

The 1000 Steps Trail in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, the summit of Mt Bishop at Wilson's Promontory, Werribee Gorge is a nice walk with children.

The Aboriginal Heritage Track takes in one of the most popular rock art sites in Ku-ring-gai National Park, and an amazing Aboriginal engraving site, the kids will love it.

Springbrook National Park offers amazing scenery, passing through ancient Antarctic Beech forest. The Caloundra Coastal Walk extends for 25 kilometres along some of the most scenic shorelines, you are sure to find some lovely walks here and whilst not exactly "bush" walking, it is a lovely walk.

Western Australia
Wellington Dam - Some great walks include, the dam itself down to the Honeymoon Pool, Big Rock, Little Rock and the rapids. Harvey/Logue Brook Dam - including Hoffman Mill and other areas in the jarrah forrest. Nanga/Dwellingup – lovely walks around the Murray river and the old Nanga mill site. Leeuwin Naturalist National Park – great views of the limestone coast. Valley of the Giants, the kids will delight in the massive karri trees around Pemberton, Manjimup, Walpole, and Denmark.

Lobster Falls is a great family day walk with a lovely watering hole in great natural bushland. Also consider Projection bluff, Tulampanga, Devils Gullet.

South Australia
Black Hill Conservation Park is situated approximately 12 kilometres north-east of Adelaide in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges, it has some great walks. Morialta Conservation Park is a great walk to take in autumn and winter as the falls are fed with the rainfall. Kangaroo Island is filled with fantastic bushwalks for all ages, the kids can even race down the sand dunes at little sahara.

Mount Painter Walk to the summit along a sealed trail, stop for a time at the two lookouts with wonderful views over Canberra and the Brindabellas. See koalas, emus, kangaroos, the endangered brush-tail wallaby, reptiles, possums and echidnas in a natural setting at Tidbinbilla.

Northern Territory
Wave Hill will delight both children and adult as they marvel at this amazing natural attraction. Northern Territory is home to Darwin, Uluru and Kakadu National Park, so there are some amazing walks abounding.

For Melburnians there's a facebook page here that has some great walks.

This website is also dedicated to kids' walks.

Here's a fun blog dedicated to bushwalking adventures with a family.

Do you have some favourite bushwalking places, please share them here on the comments tab, we'd love to hear of your favourite places.
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Why? Bushwalking for fitness, fun and family bonding
When: Anytime, you can even take night walks
Where: Worldwide
Cost: Generally free, or some park entry fees
Your Comment
Such a heartfelt article. I loved the part about you popping them in back packs. Very cute. :)
by Vanessa de Largie (score: 3|1343) 3196 days ago
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