Making the Most of Hiking With Kids
Getting your children to enjoy an outdoor excursion doesn't have to be an uphill battle.
2020 is the year to get outside.
I grew up hiking with my family. As I get older, I still like to get my boots on the ground. Lots of memories can be made on the miles of trails that wander through this country. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m finding out the enjoyment, and the challenges, that come from a walk through the woods.
This year, perhaps more than any, families are looking for ways to get out. Schools are still uncertain, and many kids are still stuck at home. Tablets and phones have become babysitters, but kids and parents should be getting out and experiencing the outdoors. However, a pleasurable afternoon hike can go sour with kids along unless you know how to appeal to them.
Kids tend to have an attention span about as long as it takes to type the word “hike”. Fortunately, there is plenty of inspiration in the outdoors to keep them occupied. Perhaps the best is a challenge. Whether between siblings, against their parents, or even against themselves, kids love a challenge. This can be anything from “who can find the first yellow flower” to “I’ll race you to the top”. Challenges keep kids engaged and interested in a hike when they might otherwise just want to turn back.
Take shortcuts and let your kids discover them. To a kid, a shortcut may only be a matter of feet, but it gives them a sense of accomplishment. Whatever psychological reason may be behind it, kids like to take shortcuts. This is easy on steeper trails with switchbacks. The trail is often visible above or below, so letting kids cut part of the trail off keeps them entertained.
Let Them Go Ahead
Kids don’t often like to play follow the leader. They like to lead, to blaze the trail. Don’t make your kids trail behind you. Let them take point. If they stray off course, you may need to show them the right way, but don’t micromanage.
Take It Easy
As adults, we envy the energy of our children, but they often tire before we do, especially on hikes. Take breaks, be encouraging, and find creative ways to keep them energized. Set goals, like “Let’s make it to the top of the next hill”. Then reward them for attaining the goal with a break. When we want to push forward, our kids may just want to take time to relax and enjoy. We need to take a cue from elephants, who travel at the pace of the slowest member of the group.
This year has been a strange one, to say the least. However, it gave families more time with their kids than usual, and many spent more time outdoors. Take advantage of the call for social distancing by hitting the trails with your kids. Take a hike, get tired and dirty and have fun. Then, at the end of the trail, pull a cold drink from your customized Taiga cooler. The smallest experience of the day may be the biggest memory to your kids, and that is what getting outdoors is all about. Making memories.
Author Joe Pinson