Boy wearing a backpack and a toque walks to school

7 ways to get your kids to walk to school smiling, even in winter

Over the years, in dealing with our adorably willful, now six-year-old daughter, my husband has often joked that you don’t negotiate with terrorists—and he’s right. Younger children especially know that phony tears, shrieking tantrums, whining, and perhaps the most deadly, the “I thought you loved me” face are all tactics that can petrify parents.

But some things, like walking to school, are worth fighting for. Aside from the obvious health benefits of the exercise, it’s been proven that physical activity in the morning helps kids academically, too.

Winter can make walking a tough sell for kids. Especially when, like this year, it seems as though it will never end. So when those two cornerstones of good parenting—bribery and blackmail—don’t work (I’m kidding, mostly), consider these tips, tricks, and games to help make your battle a walk in the park.

1. Be prepared

It’s not enough for your kid to be dressed for the weather, you need to be ready too, and leave early because there will be lots of dawdling, sudden stops, and unexplained sitting down.

2. Check your ego/dignity at the door

You know those moments when your baby was crying and you’d do anything to make them stop? Channel that. Be ready to march, run, pretend fly, sing, moonwalk even. If they’re having fun, who cares?

3. Embrace the moment

Literally. This is a great time to hold your kid close to you, and really talk.

4. Multi-season game: car bingo

Sure, it’s no Candy Crush, but this game of picking a colour, and seeing who can be the first to spot 10 cars in that hue keeps my daughter alert and entertained. Her need to spot a car before me has her moving quickly, too. Bonus exercise comes courtesy of her “in-your-face” dance.

5. Winter game: explorers

Gather up as many sticks as you can before you leave, and then every time you see a large mountain of snow, climb it and plant those sticks in the snow as if they were flags.

6. Multi-season brain busters

Alphabetical Going on a Picnic Game, Geography, Name that Tune, I Spy. Get nostalgic and play all the games you loved as a child.

7. Buddy system

One of the easiest ways to get kids to do anything is to get their friends on board, so find another family, or just offer to take turns with each other’s kids to make it a fun walk for all.

This is what works for my winter warrior, but most of these can be used or adjusted to your child’s unique personalities. In the comment section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts, strategies, and any anecdotes you could share on what gets your kids going.

4 responses to “7 ways to get your kids to walk to school smiling, even in winter

  1. We started from the beginning and it’s not only part of our routine but who we are. That said, it’s never too late to start. One tip is boots. Unless it’s really snowy, my son wears his waterproof hikers with good winter socks most days. It’s a lot easier that his big winter boots. His winter boots are great for playing in the snow, the ski hill, snow shoeing, etc. but for walking to school, his hikers are a better bet for him.

  2. My kids aren’t school aged yet, but I appreciate this post! I hope to have the great privilege of walking my kids to school. I like the focus here on spending time together, having fun, and being outdoors. Not on stressing about getting dressed, running late (for school or work), being cold etc. A nice, positive article!

  3. I agree with the suggestions above. I also prep Elle by letting her know the route/objective of the walk so she is part of the decision making. She also loves to do what the bigger kids – including mommy;) – do so there’s added motivation in our walks. She’s becoming a big girl that can hold her own whatever the winter brings!

  4. Well said Lori! I agree that getting your kids to embrace walking instead or car rides is tough. Starting early helps a lot though. I booted my kids out of the stroller at 3 unless all day on foot. They complained and griped at first but now both girls are good walkers and by the time school is on they just go with the flow. That being said winter can be daunting so yes an upbeat outlook helps. I use that time as mother daughter talks. We call it the walktalk!

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