Bushwalking is an excellent way to hang out with the kids and burn energy outdoors. We’re incredibly blessed with stunning places to explore in Sydney – Make a day of it by catching a ferry or train, stopping at playgrounds or grabbing a hot chocolate along the way.
Choosing a walk
Start by thinking what kind of adventure you want to share. Consider how you want to get there (drive, train, bus or ferry), will it be a want a remote walk? Or a track with a playground or cafe? Do you want to finish at the zoo? Or explore historic gun emplacements?
Adults tend to pick walks for big views; kids tend to look for adventure and play. Kids want rocks to scramble over, water to splash in or Pokemon to find.
Pre-schoolers: Choose a track where they can walk under their own steam. Young kids love to feel the textures of trees and rocks; they also love simple things like sitting and eating a snack with you.
Primary kids: Choose a track where they can lead and explore. Playgrounds add variation for the younger ones and walking with friends is a strong motivator for most kids. Playing in creeks, racing leaf boats or working out where we are on the map can be a lot of fun. A good rule of thumb is to choose a walk that is half the number of kilometers compared to the kid’s age. For a five year-old, start with a walk that’s less than 2.5 kilometers. You want to leave the kids wanting more.
Name of the game is fun
The idea of your first few bushwalks is to enjoy being outdoors and keep the kids wanting more. If the kids want to catch Pokemon, that’s OK – there’s no point in having a bushwalk if it’s your last.
Be flexible, if your child finds fairies under a rock, enjoy them, even if that means missing the waterfall. The waterfall will be there next week, but the fairies may not.
You’re out for an adventure, not an extended biology lesson. Avoid the temptation of applying a curriculum to the walk; instead, go where the kid’s curiosity takes you. Having fun for fun’s sake is a good thing. Pick a time of day when your child is naturally alert and active. Bring snacks and enjoy them in a cave by a creek.
It’s important to let the kids have fun and explore; it’s also a good idea to bring them home safely. All kids and walks are different, so discuss ground rules that will work for you such as staying in sight of a parent, keeping together and keeping to the track.
Encourage the kids to carry a map, to talk about safety and to have fun. As the adult we need to have the right gear and remain in control, but we also want to empower the kids, so engage them in decisions on the track.
If little Johnny does fall over and scrapes his knees, see if you can talk him through cleaning it up and doing the first aid himself. For some kids, this can help keep them calm and teach them great skills.
*Lakes of Cherrybrook: If you’re a little unsure about this whole bushwalking thing, start easy with a visit to the playground, picnic area (and nearby cafe) at Lakes of Cherrybrook. There’s a short easy walk that loops around the lake. 450m circuit walk. http://wild.tl/tlocl
*Crosslands: Head down to Crosslands for a BBQ, a play and walk along the boardwalk – you’ll feel a million miles away from home. 950 return walk. http://wild.tl/ctbcl
*Bobbin Head: Spend a few hours down at Bobbin Head, visit the playground, go fishing and enjoy this walk through the mangroves, past some aboriginal axe grindings, to the rainforest creek. 1.6km return walk. http://wild.tl/bhrw
Primary aged kids
*Middle Head: Not so much a bushwalk as a cool place to explore. Middle Head has a scattering of forts, gun emplacements, and cool history to wander around. 2km+ exploring circuit walk. http://wild.tl/1d
*Wahroonga: If your kids have a bit of stamina and have done a couple of walks, this is a pleasant track alongside a lovely creek that gives a sense of remoteness. Finish with a playground and lunch at Bobbin Head. 6.5km one way walk. http://wild.tl/gt
*Sydney Harbour: Why not make a day of it? A walk with a variety of bushland, harbour views and luxuries along the way. Start with a ferry trip, walk for about 1km to discover a gun emplacement. Stop for lunch halfway to enjoy the playground, beach, and cafe. Less than 2km after lunch, find more gun emplacements and tunnels at Georges Head then finish with fish and chips (and a splash) at Balmoral Beach. 6.8km one-way walk. http://wild.tl/tztbb
There are hundreds of options, discover more at www.wildwalks.com