When the children were babies, I would put them in their stroller and take them for a walk around the neighbourhood. When they were toddlers, we would head to the nearest neighbourhood park so they could run round, feed the fish in the pond and examine the leaves on the path. Taking the children for a walk around the neighbourhood was the highlight of my daily activities. I loved getting out after being cooped up in the house all day. The fresh air, the slightly salty sea breeze, the hint of greenery all helped to soothe and refresh my senses.
The children loved their evening routine. They ran around the park, finding and digging up things, playing make believe, pausing and observing the natural wonder all around us. They would stare at the ants crawling in a straight line as they headed to pick up food or marvel at the birds as they flew overhead, back to their nests to settle in for the night. They would also race around the park, playing with their friends, which mercifully exhausted them enough to fall fast asleep by 7.30 pm after their dinner and bath. As they grew older, the park routine reduced as playdates and extracurricular activities took over their schedule. As life got busier, somewhere along the way, we lost our daily walks.
But, a couple of years ago, my husband and I went on a historical neighbourhood walk and we loved it. We decided that we wanted to share our new perspective on our neighbourhood with the kids. The children were much older now. They were seven and 10 years old. The first walk that we went on started with the idea of familiarising them to the neighbourhood that they lived in. But, during the course of the walk, we realised how much there was to see and talk about. More importantly, the children seemed to love it. We decided to go for another walk the following weekend.
And just like that, family walks became part of our lives again. Initially, we would play a little game. Each of them got to choose which direction we would head in, whenever we came to a crossroad. So, every time we went for a walk, we would take a completely different route. Each route opening itself up to diverse thoughts, questions, views and perspectives. As we strolled through the neighbourhood, we would talk about the things we see around us. We would make observations and reflect on it all. As the children grew older, we continued to go on neighbourhood family walks and here’s why you should do it too.
Going for a stroll or a walk around the neighbourhood forces you to slow down. It encourages you to take time out of your busy schedule and actually tune in to your child. It’s essential that you leave your phones and gadgets at home. No distractions or urgent messages that need to be responded to immediately. Your children deserve and require your undivided attention. When you’re walking, your meandering thoughts bring you to an almost meditative state. Your body slowly starts to relax and gradually begins to observe and absorb the natural environment around you. For children, the physical process of walking dispels the natural extra energy that they have and allows their brain to enter a calmer state of being. Each of these walks will spark conversations that are sometimes silly and fun, and sometimes deep and philosophical.
As my older son enters his teenage years, our walks include conversations about his interests and hobbies. He lets me in on his life. This allows me to address his thoughts and concerns that otherwise, may not even come to my notice as we get stuck in logistical or functional conversations about school or homework. But, conversations on the walk connect you, giving you an opportunity to provide them with your perspective and allowing you to slow down and listen to theirs.
The duration of the walk doesn’t matter. What matters is how present you are in the moment. So, take a bit of time out of your busy schedule. Attempt a neighbourhood walk with your kids this weekend. Trust me, your whole family will benefit from the powerful impact of mindful connections and conversations.