7 ways to get your kids out for a winter walk

The difference between an indoors-all-morning child and the same one after a walk is immense. It’s the reason we conquer our qualms about bundling up to get out of the door. It’s why we embrace the pile of muddy clothes to wash when we return. And it’s why the National Trust is such a blessing at this time of year.

A child who has run around in the fresh air in the woods at Cliveden or Hughenden, or on the water meadows of Maidenhead and Cookham Commons is so much nicer to be around. And if it’s in a beautiful place then we’re happy too. But persuading a child away from a screen in a cosy room into the cold outdoors for a walk can be tricky. Here are a few tips:

1/ Call it a welly walk (or a rain walk if they’re welly-averse.) What you call your walk makes a difference. Think about how ‘little trees’ served us well with broccoli. Call it an obstacle race or an adventure trail if the word ‘walk’ sends them into whining mode. Try to make a virtue of the negatives. ‘Cold? Yay! It means we can wear our scarf and gloves.’

2/ Look for animal tracks Mud is great for stomping through in wellies to make footprints. Before you wade in though, check to see who has been there before you. It could be a duck, deer or dinosaur. OK, maybe not the latter, but you could always make your own dinosaur footprints.

3/ Construct an obstacle course Suggest a simple walk from A to B and your head will hurt from the whining. Suggest an obstacle course in a woodland and your ears will hurt from the cries of glee. Use logs as balance beams, trees as slaloms and sticks laid on the ground to hop over.

4/ Take binoculars Winter is a great time for birdwatching. Birds are so much more visible without leaves on trees to conceal them. Take a spotter guide and tick off the birds you manage to spot.

5/ Borrow a dog It doesn’t work if it’s your own. Dog-walking soon loses its appeal if it’s a daily occurrence. Borrow someone else’s though, and it turns into a treat. The novelty and responsibility of holding the lead is a huge thrill to children.

6/ Make it a scavenger hunt Set out on a walk with a list of items for the child to find. The obvious things are acorns, twigs, beetles or woodlice, beech mast, conkers, crisp brown leaf, forked stick. Who doesn’t love the satisfaction of ticking things off a list?

7/ Litter pick Buy a cheap litter picker tool off the internet. Kids love them. They can see the point of going out litter picking and gives them things to find. And there’s a marvellous halo effect. We can see yours shining already.

Head to nationaltrust.org.uk/Buckinghamshire or nationaltrust.org.uk/berkshire for some great child-friendly winter walks