If you love hiking, of course you’ll want your kids to love it too.
Still, getting children excited about any activity they don’t already love can be tricky. Many of today’s kids thrive on video games, movies, and apps – but there’s no reason you can’t give them a hiking trip they’ll never forget.
With a little creative thinking and planning, you can inspire your kids to embrace the world of hiking …
Start Simple, Start Small
When you take your child or children on their first hike, avoid the temptation to inflict your favorite trail upon them if it’s unsuitable.
Yes, you may love that 10-mile trek across uneven terrain, but you need to consider your kids’ experience. Will it be too much for them?
Choose a hike that can be completed in a short time, and that has lots to look at. A trail with lakes, waterfalls, and grazing wildlife is more likely to keep them engaged than less interesting settings.
Encourage them to Interact with Nature
Rather than simply walking without a break, take time to get your kids involved. Pack a pair of binoculars and ask them to pick out landmarks or spots that catch their eye. Hand them a magnifying glass and explore the activities of ants or other bugs.
By teaching them to engage with their surroundings, you stand greater chance of opening their eyes to its wonders.
Take Regular Breaks
Experienced hikers can walk for hours without getting bored or exhausted. Kids, especially those on their first trail, are less patient.
Pushing your children to walk for too long without a break will tire them out – and how do you think their mood will change with fatigue? You’re likely to face crying, shouting, and a general refusal to keep going.
Understandably, this stands to disrupt the hike for everyone. Make stops every 20 minutes or so, to catch a drink, snack, or take in your surroundings.
You may even want to pack a game or two, such as Top Trumps or a deck or cards. Just be sure to pack these in a waterproof backpack if rain looks likely.
Be Willing to Try Again
You take your family on a hike. For reasons beyond your control, your child or children don’t have a good time. Do you let this put you off ever trying to interest them in your favorite outdoors hobby again?
No. Try again!
Pick another trail you feel might be exciting or fun. Look at the previous hike, and try to identify why it didn’t work. Did your kids get too exhausted, but will be more likely to enjoy a shorter trail instead? Did your child start to get a headache or cut themselves, but you had no tablets or band-aids with you?
Both of these possibilities have simple solutions. Don’t let one negative experience prevent you trying to show your family just how exciting, relaxing, eye-opening, and ultimately rewarding a good hike can be.