Walking is a great way to stay active for people for all ages. Particularly for children, walking:
- is fun and interesting – you get to notice things along the way and meet people in your neighbourhood.
- is sociable – children love walking with their friends, especially on the journey to school.
- makes them feel good – the exercise makes them feel calmer and happier and it improves their concentration, making it easier to focus on what is interesting them or the experiences that are being offered to them.
- promotes independence and freedom – children can make more decisions about their journey than they can in the car. They can choose to stop and look at something along the way and they can start to make decisions about road safety. For older children, walking independently offers some time to themselves.
- has health benefits – it helps keep you and your children stay healthy in mind as well as body, helping to boost your mood and self-esteem. What’s more, it has been suggested that children who walk and cycle are more alert and ready to learn than those who arrive by car.
Walking enables children to look and explore as they move through the environment. It is often the smallest of things that attract the child’s attention: the curb provides huge possibilities as do the drains, leaves, and stones, which are often labelled as treasure.
Opportunities for spontaneous learning and awe can crop up whilst walking. My son used to regularly get to push the buttons on the bin lorry if we were walking along the road at the right time as he had developed a rapport with the bin men, which would then translate into role-playing when we got back home. This consisted of filling the sofa with a range of rubbish and then driving it to the tip.
Walking the same routes on several occasions aids the child to map their area and work out how one place connects with another, and gain a greater affinity with the world around them.