Tell young children you're going on a walk and you'll probably get a point-blank refusal. Tell them you're going out to play a game and they won't be able to get their shoes on fast enough!
Here's how to make walking fun...
1. Play catch the colour
Think of a colour, shout it out and watch as everyone sets off to find an object in that shade. Start with easy-to-find colours like green and yellow before you move on to the much rarer blues and reds. The person who gets there first and 'catches the colour' gets to choose the next one.
2. Go on a minibeast hunt
Forget about paying a fortune at the zoo - there's amazing wildlife out there for free once you know where to look! As you're walking along, stop every now and then and turn over stones, logs or pieces of bark to see what's lurking underneath. In no time at all, you'll find earwigs, spiders, worms and woodlice galore - nice. Take a magnifying glass with you so everyone can have a really good look. You could even take a few close-up photos on your phone in case you need to do further research or drawing at home later on.
3. Make a grass whistle
Every kid should be able to do this, so you might as well start 'em young. Take some time to find a nice long shiny bit of grass. Press it between the sides of both your thumbs so that it's stretched tight. Blow gently through the space left in the centre, enjoying the high-pitched squeal it makes. It's a useful skill to have, especially if you want a secret way to attract someone's attention.
4. Play shadow tag
This is a brilliant game to play at the beginning or end of the day when the shadows are longest. Basically it's tag but with a twist! Decide who's going to be 'it' and then start running around. When the person who's 'it' steps on someone else's shadow, they become 'it' and the whole game starts again.
5. Go leaf catching
Played in autumn, this is like that final game in the TV show Crystal Maze where the contestants have to catch as many gold tokens as they can – only this time it's with leaves! Get everyone to stand around a small tree, then start shaking it for 10-20 seconds. The object of the game is for everyone to catch as many leaves as they can. Only leaves stuffed into pockets or held in the hand count and the child with the biggest stash is the winner. The biggest shiniest leaf you can find makes an ideal prize.
6. Play fox and chickens
This game brings a little farmyard mayhem to any country walk. Just find a patch of grass between two trees or large bushes. You're the fox and everyone else is a chicken. You stand in the middle and try to catch all the juicy little chicks as they run between the two trees. You don't actually eat the chickens once you catch them – instead, they have to help you catch the others. The last chicken to be caught gets to be the fox in the next round.
7. Cloud watching
When they start to get really tired and asking to be carried, try this instead - get everyone to lie down and look up at the clouds. Pick an interestingly shaped one and ask everyone to say what they think it looks like – an elephant, a loo brush, a lollipop and so on. The person who comes up with the most popular answer gets to choose the next cloud.
8. Follow the leader
You start as the leader, getting everyone else to line up behind you and follow you wherever you go. Everyone else has to copy exactly what you do as you all walk along. If you hop on one leg, everyone hops on one leg; if you walk like a monkey, everyone walks like a monkey. Feel free to make it as embarrassing as you can, especially if you have another adult with you who doesn't like making an exhibition of themselves in public. Try howling like a wolf or cocking your leg by a tree as though you're a dog having a wee. Keep changing what they have to do until you get a bit bored - and then it's someone else's turn to be leader.
9. Go on a scavenger hunt
Before you set off, scribble down a list of objects you think you might find on the way. You could include the following: a wild flower, a feather, an acorn, a smooth stone, a red leaf, a cone. Feel free to add to the list during the walk if you think they're finding everything too quickly – you're in charge, after all! Award a small treat for anyone who's gathered everything by the end of the walk.
10. Make a human chain
Two people hold hands at the start of this game - everyone else is on their own! The couple holding hands starts to chase the others and anyone they catch has to join their chain. Just carry on playing until everyone is caught. This can take some time because the longer the chain, the harder it is to catch new links!
Sally Norton is the author of '101 Things To Do Before You're Five' (Penguin).
More on Parentdish:
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more