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The Magic of the Mystery Walk: How I got my children to take walks in the neighborhood

A few years ago I realized I needed my children (4 and 3 years old) to get out of the house and walk to get their wiggles out. While many kids have a natural desire to go outside and explore on a walk, mine do not. In fact, walking 100 feet seemed too much and I quickly heard groans of “my feet hurt” or “why can’t we sit in the stroller?” So, I came up with an idea that has helped us tremendously: the Magical Mystery Walk.

What you need:

1. Jewels, stones (you can buy at the $1 Store) or any small object. I keep mine in an old medicine bottle with a childproof cap

2. Clothing with a pocket for the grownup

3. A little prize (a book to read together, a blank coloring page)

I announce we are going on a magical mystery walk. I put the jewels in my pocket and put a “prize” in our mailbox or under the doormat so that my kids can look forward to something when we finish our adventure walk. I then walk with the kids and subtly hide a jewel in a random spot in the neighborhood while they are not looking. I space the jewels so that they are spread out in different spots on our walk. We get to the halfway mark and I let them know the magical gems will be appearing. (As your kids get older, they will catch on that it’s you hiding the gems. But mine still don’t seem to mind. In fact, my older one now enjoys hiding the jewels when we go on walks.)

In addition to getting my kids to build up their endurance and maybe (gasp) even enjoy walking, I have found some benefits to these little walks:

Turn-taking: We alternate who gets to pick up the next jewel. While one sibling may see it first, the children need to alternate who gets to pick up the next jewel.

Counting and number sense: The walk requires math skills. I let the children know the number of jewels there are total (ie. 10 or 20). As we walk we can count how many they each have, how many we have found total, and how many there are left to collect. At the very end it’s a big production to count the TOTAL number of jewels.

Develop and improve gross motor skills: Consider having your child gallop, skip, hop, bear walk, crab rock, run, etc. to the next location.

Safety skills: During these walking adventures my children learned about where a driveway starts, how to look for cars that may be backing up, stopping when a sidewalk ends, and being alert when bikers come.

Memory skills: (this one is a bonus for the grown-ups): Placing the 10-20 gems in specific locations forces me to remember where I have hidden each gem. Who says only the kids get to improve their cognitive skills?

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