The idea of taking my kids on a hike came to my mind, fortunately just when my daughter Claire had learned to take baby steps. You might wonder if I could always take my baby (& later babies) to parks and picnic spots why I wanted to plan a hike with them. Well, it’s because hiking is an activity that can take kids more close to nature and let them breathe in more fresh air. But since hiking is also a more tiring activity, I had to use a lot of creativity and train my children for it. But the journey (of training my kids for hiking) was amazing.
1. Start Them Young
As I said earlier, my daughter was very young when I planned to take her on a hike with us. The younger your child, the earlier would they be prepared for hiking (if you take them on a hike). If they are babies, that’s even better. This way, you can make hiking a normal weekend activity in their view. Claire got so used to hiking that if on a weekend we stayed at home, she would get pretty upset. Don’t be afraid of whether your child can walk so long or not. You’ll be surprised to see what they can do.
2. Let Them Plan the Hike!
When our kids grew up enough to make suggestions, I assigned them the task of planning a hike. Here you should maintain the delicate balance between actually planning the hike yourself and making them feel that they’ve planned the trip and everything is happening according to their wish – they’re not being dragged into it. Ask them if they want to explore a cave or walk along the river and fish on the way or collect wildflowers in as many colors as possible in the forest! While Claire planned a hike for the first time, to the Hanging Lake in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, we were around her acting as helpers to give tips and suggestions; but we let her make the final decision, so she was proud that she’d planned the hike and had thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
3. Let Them Walk
When we go on a family hiking trip, we always make our kids walk as much as they can. It’s important not to let your heart cry when your child takes just a few steps and not to carry them. They should get habituated to walking. If they realize that you feel bad for them when they walk, they’ll think that walking is indeed a bad activity which they shouldn’t do and they will expect you to carry them. On the contrary they should realize that walking and hiking are fun activities, and they should continue them.
4. Give Them Tasks to Do
Children love taking responsibilities. That way their self-esteem is built up and they feel confident. We let our children perform small tasks such as leading the group, carrying a set of lightweight items such as food items and distributing foods to everyone in the group after a given time interval, etc.
5. Let Them Play and Have Fun
While hiking, we find safe and suitable spaces and take breaks at regular intervals and let kids play games and have fun. We don’t stop them from doing what they want to do provided they shouldn’t be out of our sight. It’s a good idea to take such ‘game breaks’ often so kids feel that they get to play a lot on a hiking trip, and next time they’ll be more enthusiastic about the adventure.
6. Let Them Rest
Rest is essential for everyone including children. If children keep on doing something or the other, or playing, they will soon be tired and will lose interest in hiking. So, we essentially give our kids enough time to rest.
If you have more ideas to train kids and keep them entertained on hiking trips, do let me know. Once your children start hiking regularly, you’ll be amazed to see their improved physical and mental health – it’s my own first-hand experience!