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How to get your kid(s) to walk

Yesterday was the first day back at school. Our 5 year old is starting preschool while our 3 year old is back at the Montessori daycare. Our daily school walk has just increased by a whopping 600m. 1km to Montessori, a retour of 1,1km to the school and 500m back home = 2,6km. And the same again in the afternoon, altogether totalling 5,2km. Not bad.

For the kids its only a daily 2,6km of course but the 5 year old clocks most of those in one bout.

Walking is not negotiated in our family. Ok, sometimes, the kids are allowed to cycle. But we (mainly I) teach the kids the importance of walking. And they walk every day. Now with much less complaint than only a year ago. It wasn't always easy. And still, most days it doesn't exactly come close to the proverbial 'stroll in the park'. It's just something that has to be done. Period.

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How to train your kids to walk:

1) Be a role model and walk - with enthusiasm and a daily smile on your face :) If day care or school is too far to walk to every day, you need to come up with a daily destination that works for you.

2) To be a walking role model you need to prioritise walking over (many) other things. Like sleeping 30min longer. Or putting on your makeup. Or your morning jog.

In order to do that that with conviction you need to understand and embrace the fact that walking is THE BEST FOR HEALTH. Walking is an activity that our bones, our muscles and all the systems in our body need to be healthy and functioning well. Cycling or running don't give us those health benefits. Humans have evolved without bikes under their butts and they have set out to populate the earth by means of walking - not jogging.

stone_images_of_humans_walking.jpgWalking gives us bone re-generating health benefit - especially in the head of the femur. The high step frequency of running just doesn't help so much when it comes to bone density.  Walking is also an activity that - depending on HOW we walk - involves most of our 600+ muscles.

 

When muscle is at work, i.e. contracting and lengthening, it is conducting blood, lymph and electricity. Three life and health giving goods!

More muscle innervation = more cell regeneration = more health.

Walking, if done correctly, even has pelvic floor healing properties. Or another way to say it: if we had always walked frequently and regularly and by using the muscles of our hips, butt and back of the legs, we wouldn't see so many adult diapers in the stores.

Ok, so you are pretty pumped about taking your kids on regular walks. But you just know its going to be a wicked test to your patience! Because the kids constantly stop or, worse, they flat out collapse on the street and refuse to walk any longer because a) its too hot b) its too cold c) its too boring d)it takes too long e)they are hungry or thirsty f)they want to ride their bicylce instead g)they want to wear other shoes, pants, shirt, ect. h)life and their parents suck.

I know. It looks like that:

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Here is what you can do to make being a walking role model easier:
Make sure you have plenty of time. A walk that would take you 10min could be a 45min walk with small children who are not yet used to walking. Its about prioritising. Something else has to go. Its as simple as that.

Start with short distances. When our youngest was about 2,5 years (about the time when I took this walking business with kids serious) we ditched the stroller for our 1km walk to daycare. She was strong enough to do 1km by then. You can start with 500m and build it up. To not have the stroller as an option helped us A LOT!

Talk to them about how walking gives them strong muscles. And let them feel what its like to have strong muscles. When they run fast you say: whoa, you got strong muscles from all that walking! When you are at the playground and they climb something all by themselves, you say: whoa, you got strong muscles from all that walking! ...

We spent many LOONG minutes dealing with meltdowns. You know your kid best. Keep it cool and do what you can. Negotiating helps: I carry you up to that next lamp post and then you walk. Or bribing: You walk without moaning for 3 (pick your own number) days and you get something (pick your own reward).

We also often did (and sometimes still do) little competitions and create two teams. Each team takes another route and the team that arrives first, wins. That one prevented us many many times from selling our kids.

Around Easter time we go looking for the Easter bunny (and often enough actually see a wild rabbit). Around Christmas time we look at the decorations. We sometimes pick the route along the busier road and get the trucks to honk on us. Stuff like that.

Now that our kids are well trained its easier and we've been so proud this summer to have done some really awesome longer hikes with them. Its a lot of fun now.

Oh, and if you do go for a longer hike: PACK A LOT OF FOOD!

And last but not least: be educated about foot wear. Adult and children's feet need shoes with zero heel, flexible soles and enough room for toes to wiggle and spread. And your kid can tell you very quickly what shoes are the better walking or running shoe once they get to try it out.

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