If you love hiking, it makes sense that you’d want to share this passion for the great outdoors with your children. However, though kids are known for having boundless energy, they do have their limits. Even on the best of days, an experienced hiker can face challenges and struggle to stay motivated. If you want your kids to love hiking as much as you do, it’s important not to force them into it.
Hiking is also a great way to lift your kids’ spirits if they are feeling a bit cooped up and depressed. These days especially, it’s easy for kids to get sucked into technology, spending too much time indoors. Just make sure you know the difference between a kid who is depressed and could use some healing nature and a kid who is fatigued. If your child is simply feeling down, getting them outside can help, but if your child is not getting enough sleep and is exhausted, pushing them to go on a hike can make it worse.
Overall, hiking can be incredibly enjoyable for you and your kids so long as you are prepared and make it fun. Just remember that hiking is less about making it to the end and more about the experience for young children. Follow the tips below to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable time hiking with your kids in the great outdoors.
Take Them Shopping for Gear
A great way to get your kids interested in a hike is to take them with you when you go shopping for gear and essentials. Let them have some say in the products you buy, like their hiking clothes, shoes, backpack, and water bottle. Make sure their choices make sense, as it’s ultimately up to you to ensure they have the proper gear — but letting them make decisions and giving them choices will boost their confidence and enjoyment of the overall experience. Teach them how to pack minimally. You can carry the bulk of their gear while they carry the necessities. This will help them with their stamina throughout the hike.
Choose Shorter Hikes to Start
One of the biggest mistakes you can make and should avoid from the start is pushing your kids to finish the hike. It’s important to instill a sense of perseverance and then reward them for a job well done, sure, but pushing them to finish a long hike when they are just starting out is likely to kill their interest in it. It’s better to start easy and small and to turn back if needed. Focus on the victories of the day and the things that you enjoyed to encourage their interest.
Make It Fun
Just because you find simply walking quietly in nature enjoyable doesn’t mean your kids will. They have much shorter attention spans than adults, so it’s helpful if you can find ways to make the experience more fun for them. For example, try singing some songs or playing games that engage their interest in the nature around them.
Keep Them Fueled and Hydrated
Staying hydrated is essential for any hiker, but it is especially crucial when hiking with kids. Dehydration can easily occur when your kids are burning more energy and sweating more than usual. Snacks are also a good idea, even if the hike is short. Fueling your kids with the right foods can keep them happy and boost their energy and endurance levels to keep them motivated.
Encourage Curiosity and Interest in Nature
Ask questions and talk to your kids about the plant and animal life they see around them to help them develop an interest in nature. Children are curious by nature, so it doesn’t take much to encourage them to ask questions themselves and to seek answers. You can even turn the identification of plants, insects, and animals into a game to make it more fun.
Know Their Limits
Again, kids don’t have the same strength and endurance as adults, so you should be mindful of their limits. If you push them too hard, it will discourage them. Teach them that it’s okay to take a break if they need to because, while hiking is fun, it’s important to listen to your body and give it what it needs. Encourage them to listen to their own bodies as well, and to speak up when they need to rest, drink some water, or go to the bathroom.
Before leaving for the hike, it’s important to review outdoor safety with your kids and encourage them to take responsibility and stay alert. However, when they are having fun and distracted, it’s easy for kids to forget to pay attention and avoid dangers — so it’s up to you to remind them and keep them safe while hiking. You should always hike with a first-aid kit and be mindful of potential triggers if your kids have known allergies, like pollen, pine, or even your dog’s coat.
If you properly prepare, pack the right tools and essentials, and find ways to make it fun, your kids will likely learn to love hiking as much as you. However, no matter what you do, there may be times when your kids are just not into it or are having a harder time enjoying the hike than usual. Sometimes they just don’t want to hike, and that’s okay.
The key to having a good time hiking with kids is patience. Forcing them to do it is not a good idea and will likely make them push back even harder. Just breathe, take your time, try to make it fun, and take it one step at a time.
Photo by Анна Рыжкова from Pexels
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.
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