20 ways to keep local family walks interesting in lockdown

Winter is a beautiful time of year to explore nature, but with restrictions on where and how far we can exercise, there are worries about how the same pavements may become a little boring for kids.

The "secret" swing is a definite highlight of our daily walks
The “secret” tree swing is a definite highlight of our daily walks

With only a short time to get out in the daylight each day around work/homeschool, we are lapping the same rectangular field each weekday, meaning I’m writing the following to hopefully also help anyone looking to liven up the pavements right now.

I know we are lucky to have some beautiful places on our doorstep here in Leicestershire, but right now we are staying local, with walks from our house – as we’re used to being a bit more free range, we’re getting itchy feet, so trying to keep the motivation up on the same trails. Once we’re out, the difference to our mind and body is incredible – it not only helps us burn off some energy, and get us away from the work/homelearning screens, but also makes us feel good too!

What’s more, many of these are free and don’t require you to need any equipment or a printer.

These are the Learning Resources UK Kidnoculars - best thing I've bought her for sure!
Bird spotting with her Kidnoculars in our local field

I know I don’t need to remind you to stay safe and stay local, these ideas are for when out on your daily exercise, to keep the kids entertained when you’re walking the same paths each day during lockdown.

1. Seasonal sensory fun

Winter is a great time of year to explore with a whole range of amazing sensory fun to have! What sound does the ice make as it crunches under your feet? How does it feel as it breaks? Can you see the patterns in the ice? Are there any animal footprints? What does the frost look like?

Even walking the same paths is a bonus as you know the route so can spot little things in nature you may not notice before, from little footprints in the snow to animal hideouts – just remember not to touch them 🙂

Crunching through ice is a unique and fun winter activity outdoors
Crunching through ice is a unique and fun winter activity outdoors

If you’re homeschooling, why not get them to write or draw what they’ve seen when they get home? How is the environment changing while the seasons are changing?

2. Follow the leader

Let the kids tell you which way they want to go – it makes them feel like they’re in charge! Even if it is as simple as getting to a fork in the road and offering them them the option of going left or right.

3. Map reading

If you know the roads around your streets (or maybe you could use Google maps!), try drawing a simple map, then get the little ones to draw lines along a route from your front door. When you’re out, see if they can follow the route they’ve drawn!

4. Scavenger hunt

Winter is a great time of year to explore nature. Why not see what you can spot? Print out an online scavenger hunt, there are many out there, from nature finds, to sensory objects or spotting things with different colours. We love these ideas from the Woodland Trust.

Nature's treasure is always the best treasure. What can you find under a rock?
Nature’s treasure is always the best treasure. What can you find under a rock?

If you don’t have any to hand and need a quick last-minute distraction for tired legs, try a rainbow hunt by getting the kids to spot something on the route using different colours of the rainbow.

5. Nature crafts

From leaf rubbings to stick crafts, there are a whole range of crafts you can do with nature. We love all the resources from Forestry England as they have downloadable packs that are great for homeschooling too, while keeping you having fun at home, including a Gruffalo Spotters activity pack too.

6. Bring a backpack

We may not be going more than about a mile from home, but Lily still insists on filling her backpack with her Kidnoculars, her Usborne Minis books, a little snack, duck food and her spare socks and gloves.

We are lucky to have this beautiful spot just a mile from home - but the backpack still had to come on the adventure!
We are lucky to have this beautiful spot just a mile from home – but the backpack still had to come on the adventure!

This not only helps me not have to carry everything for her, but also is a great way to make her feel more independent on our days out. She has space for her water bottle in there too, but when it is full she does find it too heavy to still be able to climb or jump around, so that’s still down to me until she drinks a bit.

I also insist she carries any of her ‘treasure’ finds in her backpack too, so I no longer have piles of stones in my own backpack!

7. Binoculars

Lily’s favourite item in her backpack is definitely her binoculars – to be precise, it is the Learning Resources Kidnoculars that I bought her during Lockdown 1, and have since come with us on every adventure!

Lily loves her Kidnoculars when visiting the field near our house each day
Lily loves her Kidnoculars when visiting the field near our house each day

She pretends she is taking photos with them too, but they’re perfect for little kiddy hands and very simple to use. They are a great conversation-starter too as she tells me what she can see. Definitely one of our best ever purchases!

8. Treasure hunt

Nature is a beautiful treasure, so why not use this for a fun walk? You can integrate it into a scavenger hunt if you were looking for ideas of what to search for. Lily loves making a treasure chest out of an egg box (a great craft at home!) while I’m working, and then we can head out to search for treasure on our walk after work! The Woodland Trust suggests a Tiny Treasure Hunt to seeing what natural treasures you can find to fit into a matchbox,

9. Nature spotting

In Lily’s backpack, she has her Usborne Minis books on Trees to Spot, Birds to Spot, Bugs to Spot and Flowers to Spot. They’re £2.99 each (they were from us for her Christmas present!) and a great way to help her understand nature, see what she can find, and they’re well organised into locations, so what to expect in towns, woodlands or countryside too, with stickers at the back.

Lily loves her Usborne Minis books on trees, birds and bugs!
Lily loves her Usborne Minis books on trees, birds and bugs!

We also think the Spotty Dawdlers nature spotting books look great too, with flashcards and stickers, and the perfect size for little hands.

If you don’t have these to hand, that doesn’t stop you being able to spot nature – why not get the kids to take a photo on your phone of something they’ve seen, and then they can look it up online when getting home?

10. Track your time outdoors

Track the time you’ve spent outdoors, such as with the 1000 Hours Outside trackers, a fantastic visual way to keep motivated to keep walking. We love the trackers as you can break them down easily for different milestones to keep up the motivation.

Getting outdoors is great for the body and mind - we always feel better for it.
Getting outdoors is great for the body and mind – we always feel better for it.

11. Litter picking

Litter picking, when done safely, is a great way to help children learn about the environment and protecting nature, while clearing up your local area.

You can pick up little litter grabbers online for kids for under £5, or if you have an adult one then get the kids to point out the rubbish for you to pick up.

Check out our interview with Lonely Planet Kids about why we love getting involved in beach cleans with Lily.

12. Virtual challenges

There are plenty of virtual challenges out there where you can track your walks and earn medals for it . This one looks great over at the Kidz Medal Club, with dinosaur, unicorn, under the sea and other themed challenges, where you earn a medal at the end.

Treasure Map Trails also looks a fantastic idea for all the family to have a socially-distanced local adventure by downloading maps, solving clues and exploring your local area.

The amazing Garcia Family took part in one of the Treasure Map Trails, so check out their full review here to find out more.

13. Magnifying Glass

Give the little ones a magnifying glass and they’ll instantly become little explorers! You can pick them up for a few pounds online, including toddler-friendly versions.

Ask them what patterns they can see in the frost, ice or snow, as well as look closely at any animal tracks. Maybe they can take a little book to draw what they see and then look it up when they get home to find out more?

What can you spot on your walks?
What can you spot on your walks?

14. Make your own adventures

Anyone else’s kid love to climb on everything… and then jump off the end?! Finding natural obstacles along the way can really make a walk that little bit more fun. Why not turn a walk into an themed adventure, playing on things your children love, such as pirates, unicorns, fairies, monsters, superheroes? Even better, dress up for the adventure – you’ll be sure to make your neighbours smile too 🙂

15. Find ‘secret’ spots

Lily’s favourite place to head right now is the ‘secret’ tree swing in the field. It isn’t secret, but the field is always so empty, she feel like it is a secret.

This beautiful spot is just 1.5miles from home. Even though the walk is 5 mins around it, having a 'goal' to reach is really motivational
This beautiful spot is just 1.5miles from home. Even though the walk is 5 mins around it, having a ‘goal’ to reach is really motivational

If you have somewhere to aim to go, a goal to reach, it can make the little ones excited to get out, when the weather may be keeping them drawn to the cosy sofa!

16. Feed the birds

While the lakes are icy and through the winter months, it can often be difficult for birds to find some nutritious food. Bread isn’t nutritious for the birds, but there are many things you can find at home to feed the ducks or birds if you’re not near water. We bought duck food pellets from the garden centre and decant them into a brown paper bag for when we want to head somewhere with water.

Lily with her handful of duck food!
Lily with her handful of duck food!

The RSPB says you can also feed ducks more nutritious snacks such as sweetcorn, porridge oats, bird seed and peas. There are some great ideas here from the RSPB about feeding garden birds.

17. Muddy Puddles

This needs no explaining, but this is a fantastic time of year for all the mud and puddles! Make sure you dress right for the weather, and you’ll have all the fun when out and about – plus it’s usually quieter in muddier areas, so as long as you’re prepared, you’ll have a great time!

This field is 2 minutes from our house, but she loves how the ice has now turned to endless puddles!
This field is 2 minutes from our house, but she loves how the ice has now turned to endless puddles!

18. Dance like noone’s watching

You don’t need to walk on your routes – if it is safe to do so, such as on a path through a park or field, rather than driveways, why don’t you try hopping, skipping, jumping? Set a visual distance, such as to reach the next tree by galloping sideways, and race each other there – it always ends in giggles!

19. Play games

Another free and fun way to keep the kids entertained on a walk is by playing games. Anything from I-spy to who can hop 10 times first, racing each other to the next tree (safely of course), and hide and seek. Other favourites of ours are cloud spotting and making up stories with the cloud shapes we spot!

Playing tag through the frosty field
Playing tag through the frosty field

20. Plan a post-walk treat

We all know that there are just some days that it is just too cold or miserable to be having fun, or those little legs need a little more motivation to keep walking!

Why not plan a warm hot chocolate, a movie afternoon or a living room picnic for when you get home?

Looking for some more inspiration on getting outdoors with the kids?

Check out our post on tips for winter clothing and accessories for kids here.

We also have 12 tips for preparing for winter adventures here.

Looking for gift ideas for kids who love the outdoors? This was our Christmas list but can work for kids all year round!

Check out our post on how to have your family adventures at home during lockdown.

Dreaming of a staycation? Check out our unique staycation ideas for families in 2021.

Winter is a beautiful time of year to explore - check out the patterns in the ice!
Winter is a beautiful time of year to explore – check out the patterns in the ice!
The Helpful Hiker

22 Comments Add yours

  1. Lisa Isaacs says:

    Some great ideas here. My kids are big now but when they were younger they loved to collect things (when allowed) – stones, shells and leaves. They also loved the get dirty. The muddier the better! #adventurecalling

    Like

    1. kderbyshire says:

      We definitely agree with that – all about the mud… and collecting EVERYTHING!! That’s why she now has her own backpack, haha 🙂 Thanks again!

      Like

  2. holidaysfromhels says:

    What a fantastic list! We do a bit of treasure hunting and get the binoculars out. We even throw a bike and a den build in on occasion too for a bit of variety. But here this is an inspirational list of ways to get some enthusiasm for the all too familiar local walk. #adventurecalling

    Like

    1. kderbyshire says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 we do love building dens too – just not sure if that’s allowed as part of exercise right now, so I left it off the list just in case – it is a great idea though 🙂 glad you liked it, thanks again!

      Like

  3. I love these ideas! I wish I had read this sooner.
    The section about the rucksack really made me smile. Rowan was the same when we got his. Felt so grown up and insisted on taking allsorts of stuff. including a flask of hot chocolate.
    Thank you for sharing with #AdventureCalling

    Like

    1. kderbyshire says:

      Thank you so much 🙂 Lily loves her little pack – does help the independence… and the amount of random things she collects to take home haha! #AdventureCalling

      Like

  4. quolleggcirce85082 says:

    I love this post. I have to admit that I have got very bored standing around a cold, muddy park for the last few months so this is perfect. So many fab ideas that will help many families. Thank you so much for sharing #AdventureCalling

    Like

    1. kderbyshire says:

      It is a very random username haha! Thank you so much 🙂 I hope it helps, and now we can go a little further outdoors too 🙂 #AdventureCalling

      Like

  5. quolleggcirce85082 says:

    It’s Lauren from The Helpful Hiker-no idea why wordpress.com has assigned me this username. Grrr

    Like

Leave a Reply to exploringthelandscape Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s