If you're not the sort naturally to be inclined to go on long walks, then make it into a great game and join the geocaching craze! If you've never heard of it, there's a whole secret world waiting to be discovered by you, and it starts just outside your doorstep! Take the kids out to your favourite parks and open spaces and you'll almost certainly find hidden treasure waiting for you - even in parks that you thought you knew like the back of your hand. The kids will quickly become addicted and you'll find yourself geocaching wherever you go.
Geocaching is a treasure hunt. All over the country, in fact the world, are thousands and thousands of little treasure chests. The majority are actually old film canisters (remember those?!) while larger ones might be small tupperware boxes. Inside you will find little toys and often a pencil and a log sheet. The idea is that you have to find them and when you do so, you are entitled to take one of the toys as a prize, but you must also replace it with something else for the next person. Small prizes might be a coin, marble, plastic soldier, rubber creepy-crawlies, or anything else.
How to find them? These things are, quite literally, littered across the nation. A central database has them all logged by GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude). If you have a smartphone then go along to your app store and you'll find a variety of apps to help you locate and navigate to these secret hideaways. Your mobile phone will help you arrive at the right place through its GPS system, you'll see your progress on an onscreen map as you close in on the cache. Coordinates are accurate to a few metres, and caches have a hint that helps you find them, often describing a tree or bench where the container will be found. Find out more and view the database of geocaches online at http://www.geocaching.com.
The youngest baby to ever start walking was only six months old when he took to his feet and walked - he couldn't even crawl!
Xavier King's parents were astounded when he took his first steps so early. With his arms stretched out in front of him to keep his balance, he toddles across the room at about 6 foot at a time.
His parents had a feeling he would be a fast learner when it came to mobility as Xavier was sitting up at three months old. Most babies begin to crawl at about 6 months and will pull to standing at about 9 months. By 18 months most are walking although it can take longer for no reason at all!
However, it has actually caused the parents a little concern as they need to be nearby at every moment to make sure he doesn't get into any harm. A play pen has proved very useful indeed. His parents have suggested that the bouncy chair they had for their son may have contributed to his leg and muscle strength. He loved the chair and would happily bounce in it.
Early walking is often said to be hereditary however neither of Xavier's parents walked particularly early. They will now spend most of their time running behind him to make sure he is always in their sight!
Toddlers are reknowned for falling over: although they try very hard to walk and run, they often end up in a pile on the floor; learning and falling over is all part of the process!
Every day your toddler is learning and through playing simple games they are constantly working towards acquiring new skills. Here are a few examples of what children are actually learning (without realising!) when they are playing with various toys:-
Ride-on toys (scooters, trucks, trikes etc) - strengthen muscles and improve balance. They also give your toddler a sence of mobility and the idea that then can get around the place in different ways.
Trundle truck (shopping cart or toy lawn mower) - these are great for balance and improving walking and running skills. They are also great for role play. Don't limit your children to the stereotypes though. Why shouldn't a boy have a dolly pram and a girl have truck?
Obstacle course - put some rope in a curvey line on the ground or a plank of wood if you have one. Make stepping stones with sheets of newspaper. See if they can negotiate the obstacles.
Rolling a ball - All children love balls. Although toddlers can't really kick a ball while standing on one foot, they can knee it or move it along with a push. This helps their balance and to understand the idea of cause and effect, that if you push a ball, it will roll.
So, give them plenty of opportunity to play with different toys and keep them active. Try out other people's toys and swap larger toys with other families so everyone gets a taste of diferent things to play on (without the expense!).
Give them plenty of encouragement and be enthusiastic when they ask to go out to play no matter the weather. Supporting children by keeping them enthusiastic and encouraged is vital. Give them freedom to explore too - if they want to walk along a low wall then give them your hand, put an arm round them and let them try it out! It will make them even more keen to try new things.
Often when we take the children out in the fresh air to teach them about the outside world, we head for the local park or nature reserve. Our towns and cities are often overlooked as places to take children when in fact there is a wealth of opportunity for them to learn in built up areas.
So, how does an excursion around the town provide opportunities for learning? Excursions in and around towns can help in the following ways:
- It builds on children's everyday experiences
- It helps create a sense of community
- It helps teach about the different cultures that might exist around where you live
- It promotes the idea of being out in the open air taking walks, keeping healthy and staying active
- It can help children gain confidence about being out and learning about road safety
- It helps children learn about how seasons can effect the environment in which they live
Things to look out for:
- Different styles of buildings (cottages, old office block, modern houses, old shops)
- 'Street furniture': street lamps, phone boxes, ride-on toys, post boxes, benches, display signs etc.
- Road signs
- Letters and numbers on shop fronts
- Road and rail networks
- Different vehicles (colours, styles, types)
- Building materials: concrete, bricks, wood, glass, metal
- Sounds and smells
- The people around and what they do (bus drivers, road sweepers, children, adults doing gardening etc.)
How can you enhance the experience? Here are a few ideas:
- Talk about what you see as you go along your walk. If you see a bus, look at it's wheels, the colour of the paintwork, how many people are on it, adverts on the side etc.
- Listen to noises and discuss smells. Try and name all the noises (pedestrian crossing 'beeps', diggers, car horns, sirens, shops blaring music)
- Ask questions: where is the red car?, what's in the tree?, who can see a bus?
- Spot different materials used in towns and talk about how strong they are: iron railings, wooden fence, plastic door, brick houses etc
- Look at signs and talk about them. What might they all mean?
- Stop to watch a building site or a dustbin lorry collecting bins. Chat about what they are doing and what happens.
- Look at road signs and the symbols used eg speed limit numbers, construction signs, house numbers; discuss different colours used - blue/white for information, red/white and yellow/black for warnings, green/white for environmental information, bright colours for shop fronts etc.
- Look for shapes: square garage door, rectangle front door, round letter box etc.
- Take some photos of your trip and turn them out as a map.
- For older children and pre-schoolers, you can couple the outing with other activities when you get back home
- Ask them where they want to walk to? Involve them in the planning of the trip and supplies they will need (eg. snack, drink)
- Make a map of the trip and follow it, draw in any landmarks you pass
- Ask them to remember things they saw on the trip and draw them when they get home
Have fun and enjoy your environment!
This week, all over the country, children and parents are choosing to walk to nursery, pre-school and school rather than drive. In an effort to encourage children to be active, and reduce the use of cars at peak hours, Walk To School Week has been hailed another resounding success with thousands of children using their feet rather than a vehicle to get to school.
The campaign is arranged by the charity Living Streets with funding from the Department of Transport. It asks parents, teachers and everyone travelling to and from school not to use their car for this one week. It is reported that 50% of children who wouldn't normally walk to school, have walked this week.
Walking to school:
- reduces air pollution
- reduces traffic
- improves children's activity levels
- helps increase fitness
- is social (you'll spot your friends on the way!)
- ...is good fun!
WOW is the scheme that encourages children to Walk Once a Week. If they do so, they get a little metal badge designed by children in the national badge competition.
The Walk To School campaign history:-
- 1995: Five primary schools in Hertfordshire participated
- 1996: The campaign went national and was included in Child Safety Week
- 2000: The first ever International Walk To School Week was launched
- 2003: Walk To School Week is supported by over 33 countries
- 2005: The focus was on health
- 2006: The focus was on independence of children
- 2007: The focus was on the environment
- 2010: 2 million children have taken part!
The next event is the Walk To School month...in October!
Getting active with the children is not always as easy as it sounds: how can you fit any more activity time in an already busy day? Here are some simple ways to increase the activity levels in your family. Remember, every little bit counts, so keep a note of all these activities and work out your daily total of minutes spent being active.
- Music Time - turn on some groovy music and have a good old dance together!
- Encourage your toddler to walk up the stairs or to the car rather than being carried. For older children, encourage them to tidy up after themselves or put away toys or washing at the end of the day.
- Walk to the shops and post box rather than take the car.
- Get the little ones involved with household chores: digging in the garden, sweeping the floor, washing down the garden shed.
- Go for a walk as a family - find somewhere with woods and climb up the trees or balance along fallen tree trunks.
- Have a time limit on TV watching.
- Think about some old fashioned games that are fun to play outside: hop skotch, skipping, chase, hide and seek, hoolahoop, flying a kite.
Children should do about an hour of physical activity each day. See how close you are and praise them each time they want to do something physical. It is so good for them to start out actively as children, because then they are more likely to stay active as they grow older.