Every family has their own routine after work or school. Most involve watching TV, or getting on the phone or computer until it’s time to get ready for bed. If there was an easy way that you could connect with your family, limit screen time, and get some exercise, would you do it?
All it takes is a family walk through the neighborhood!
The University of Illinois conducted a study on the effects of being in nature on family relationships. The results noted a correlation between being outside and an increase in restored attention. Dina Izenstark, the leader of the study, said “When your attention is restored, you’re able to pick up on social cues more easily, you feel less irritable, and you have more self-control. All of these are variables that can help you get along better with others”.
Tips for Great Family Walks
Here are some tips to get the most out of your family walk.
Keep it Short at First
Try going for a 20-minute walk instead of aiming for lofty goals. That way, no one has an excuse that they don’t have time. You also want to make sure that you end on a high note, especially with little ones. If they start getting tired or cranky towards the end of the walk, they will not be willing to go again.
Get Involved in Surroundings
Get kids involved in what is going on around them. This not only will keep them interested but will teach them valuable lessons about awareness of their surroundings. Point out different types of birds, count the number of firetrucks and greet neighbors that are in their yard. You can stimulate their creative juices by asking your child to make up a story about the “adventure” that you are on and have everyone add to the story.
Let conversation happen naturally. Being outside creates a less intense environment for conversation than being face-to-face. Use this to your advantage and let others do the talking. You may learn more than you would have around a dinner table because of the change in scenery.
Stay on Track
Be mindful of the intent of the walk. Keeping this time as an encouraging environment is a key to reaping the benefits. If you are snapping at kids to “hurry up” or complaining about the heat, your family will reflect the same negativity. Keep things positive.
Pick Fun Destinations
Create a goal destination. Is there a park or ice cream shop within walking distance of your house? Landmarks such as these set a clear goal for your family outing. Try mixing it up the more walks that you take or, if your family is competitive, set goals to go farther and farther each time.
Get Out And Walk!
So tonight, instead of turning on the TV after dinner, gather your loved ones and head out for a walk instead. Your family will get some fresh air, exercise, and may end up a little closer in the long run.