Why Neighborhood Walks Are Better (and Easier) With Kids

Little ones are great at identifying the world's little wins

Father and son walking past a dog on a bridge at sunset.
There's a big world out there, remember? Let a child show you.
Europa Press via Getty Images

As wellness writers the internet over continue to urge — and sometimes beg — readers to make walks a non-negotiable part of their everyday routine, various modes of walking have come into the fray.

Like super walks. Or German walks. Or “hot girl walks.”

It’s all great — call your walk whatever you want it. If it gets you away from the desk, it’s good for your body and brain. But walks can be great for the soul too, helping us re-cultivate our relationship to the outside world. Walking around a neighborhood invites inevitable observations and impressions.

All of these (the good, bad and ugly…I was clawed by a dog on today’s morning amble) have the capacity to add color to your day, remind you of something or inspire you and hopefully tether you to a community.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to get the habit off the ground. And when you do head out, it’s tempting to just take your phone out of your pocket and get it over with. But that’s a surefire way to miss out on all the fun. Which is why we recommend bringing a kid along.

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The Power of Savoring

Not just any kid. Hopefully, a kid that belongs to you, or someone you love, or someone who pays you to look after them. Try to get in the habit of going for a walk with this little person, and watch how it’ll improve (a) your relationship with the activity and (b) your overall ability to “savor” the world around you.

In modern self-help speak, “savoring,” has to do with one’s ability/tendency to appreciate an event while in the moment. It’s psychological. Those who are good at it tend to pick up on the little wins the world is sending their way and are adept at shaking off whatever moments don’t go so well.

Kids are good at savoring. They naturally see the world through appreciative and curious eyes. Construction sites, parks, sunsets, cemeteries…these are all marvels for them, worthy of their interest and interrogation. And walking alongside an adult is the best way for them to safely savor this world, to unravel it at close range.

Walks With Little Ones

You can’t pull your phone out around a kid (this is defined as phubbing: “phone snubbing”) without devaluing what they’re saying or trivializing what the both of you are seeing.

Walking around with a kid can be the convincer you need to put the phone away; this should help compel you to the present. It’s just walking, the same as it always was: cross that block, turn that corner, crunch an acorn. If you need to, try following their lead until your mood and mindfulness are positive enough that they’re following yours.

It helps to choose routes that aren’t too congested, or so common (such as a walk to school) that the walk would feel like a chore. Go somewhere quieter (or wilder) once in a while and point out the things you see. I’d recommend bringing them to one of the thousands of linear parks created by the Rails to Trails Conservancy. Each pathway used to be a rail corridor; if nothing else, kids love anything to do with trains.

Of course, this isn’t just an effective (selfish) way to get better at walking and savoring. It’s also a great way to share valuable time with a child in your life, and potentially jumpstart a tradition that they’ll cherish.

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