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How to enjoy a family walk with children (in Yorkshire) – Gear, games & the best places to go

Walks near York

If there’s one good thing to come out of the endless lockdowns and restrictions on where we can go and what we can do, it’s that more families are discovering the joys of walking with their children. And Yorkshire is the perfect place to do it, from short but inspiring city walks around York to circular routes around nature reserves like Askham Bog, Moorlands and RSPB Fairburn Ings to rugged adventures in the Yorkshire Moors, Dales and Coast. 

When the stars align, there’s no better way to hang out as a family: exercise, fresh air, time to chat and look around. But, speaking from experience with our own three kids, it’s all too easy for it to end in tears because you’ve forgotten someone’s gloves or the route is just too long for little legs and you forgot the buggy. Here are our top tips for a successful family walk in Yorkshire (or anywhere else you’d like to explore). Please note – government guidance should be followed at all times when it comes to exercising and heading out for a walk.

1. Choose the right walk near York!

Dalby Forest
There’s a variety of walking trails at Dalby Forest for kids of all ages

There are so many options for places to walk in York and within an hour’s drive (Yorkshire Coast, Dales and Moors) that there’s something for families with children of all ages, from babies in carriers to toddlers and tweens. Click here to a read our guide to the best family walks in and around York for inspiration. Here are some of our favourites walks in York and just beyond to do with kids:

For an urban walk – Walk around York’s city walls

For little legs – Askham Bog and Moorlands Nature Reserve have short, circular routes. Moorlands has a treehouse and Askham Bog has a boarded path which is fine for most buggies.

For amazing views – Sutton Bank

For kids who love to climb – Brimham Rocks

For stepping stones and a welly walk – Bolton Abbey

For forest explorers and Gruffalo lovers – Dalby Forest

For cat lovers – York Cat Trail

For space lovers – York to Selby Solar System route

For tall trees – Dalby Forest or Hagg Wood

While you’re spoilt for choice, be careful to choose a route that’s realistic for the age of your children, and make sure you’ve got a back-up plan (buggy/scooter/carrier/high sugar snacks!) to get them round if they give up halfway. 

2. Invest in the right gear

Askham Bog York winter
Wrapped up warm at Askham Bog

Ill-fitting shoes are no fun, and it took us longer than it should have done to realise that having the right footwear makes all the difference to how much our kids enjoy going out for a walk. Wellies are cute but actual walking boots are a lot easier to move in, as well as having better grips and often some warmth.

It’s against our frugal Yorkshire instincts to spend a fortune on shoes that they’ll probably grow out of quickly, but we picked up some bargain boots from Mountain Warehouse (which always seems to have some sort of sale or promotion on) and it’s been SO worth the investment. They’re so much happier going for a walk now that they can run, jump, climb and explore easily and it means that they don’t wreck their normal trainers too – bonus! Depending on the weather, also consider whether you need:

– Winter coat/waterproof (the weather might be nice when you set off, but this is Yorkshire and it might well change)

– Waterproof trousers (or, if your kids hate waterproof trousers like ours do, maybe try to discourage them from wearing jeans as there’s nothing more miserable than wet denim)

– Hats, scarves, gloves

– Sunhats/suncream

We’ve recently invested in decent, hardwearing backpacks for us grown-ups that will fit all our food and drink, plus a little emergency kit of plasters, tissues, wipes and Savlon just in case. 

3. Pack a picnic (and an incentive or two)

Walks near York - Harry Potter - Malham Cove
Chocolate Hobnobs got us up Malham Cove and around to Janet’s Foss in the Yorkshire Dales!

When we’re going for a long walk, we try to take everything with us that we’ll eat and drink: not only does it mean that we won’t be stuck if there’s no shop/cafe, but it also keeps costs down. What you take will be personal to your family, but here are the sort of things that we take if we’ll be out for a while:

– A bottle of water per person (take more than you think you’ll need!)

– Chopped up apple/carrot/cucumber/watermelon

– Grapes

– Crackers/oatcakes/breadsticks

– Crisps

– Popcorn

– Flapjacks or other biscuits (take a look at the recipes on our website for ideas)

– Sandwiches (we usually buy a baguette or two, slice it into the right size for each person and fill with whatever they like – this seems easier somehow than making individual sandwiches with normal bread and they are less likely to get squashed/fall apart)

Rightly or wrongly, we usually take a packet of some sort of sweets that we whip out if the kids are flagging along the way. It’s amazing how a Percy Pig can perk them up and get them through, but just make sure you ration them throughout the route as it can backfire if you run out too soon!

4. Charge your phone

Walks near York
We almost ran out of phone battery on the Gruffalo Spotters Trail at Dalby Forest

Make sure your phone is well charged so that you’ve got plenty of battery for taking photos, checking your route or making an emergency phone call (let’s hope not). After one hair-raising wrong turn, we downloaded the Alltrails app so now we know we’re going the right way.

5. Make it fun!

Walks around York
I Spy is a good game to play on a walk around York

While adults might be happy just to appreciate the views and enjoy the elements, little ones aren’t always so easily pleased and may need some entertainment or distraction to keep them putting one foot in front of the other without whinging. Here are some games and other ideas for keeping kids amused on a walk:

– Play the ‘I went to the shop and I bought…’ memory game (this is one of our favourites)

– Take a pair of binoculars and see what you can spot along the way

– Go somewhere with a designated trail with things to spot, like the York Cat Trail or Gruffalo trails at Dalby Forest

– Play ‘Guess who’, another favourite in our family. One person thinks of a person or character (fictional or real) and everyone has to guess who it is by asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions

– Play ‘nature bingo’ – write down ten or so things to spot on your walk, from butterflies to ants, and see if you can spot them all

– See how many things you can spot starting with each of the letters of the alphabet, from A to Z

– Chat about your dream house, what you would do if you won the lottery, where you’d all love to go on holiday – this can go on for hours!

– Give everyone the chance to take photo of a flower/leaf/bug or something else from your walk 

– Collect some souvenir treasures, like sticks, leaves, feathers or acorns

Now you should be all set for a relaxed (ish!) family walk in Yorkshire. If you need any inspiration for places to go, take a look at our guide to the best walks in and around York for families. Best foot forward and enjoy!

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