5 tips on turning hiking into a fun experience for your kids
Getting your children excited about hiking is rather easy for those parents who are into these kinds of adventures themselves. At least this is how it was in our case. Wandering in the nature has always been at the core of my relationship with my wife, that’s basically what brought us together. So, for us, it was obvious from the very beginning that we’d like to make our children enjoy spending time in the nature. They have no other choice, after all. J
We’d tried different strategies to reach this goal. When our first baby was ready to conquer his first trail, we got a stroller made for hiking, because life makes no sense without one, right? Wrong! After using it one (and a half) time, and keeping it in the garage for years, we decided to give it away. It just wasn’t what we were looking for.
Then we decided to buy a baby carrier backpack. Although we used it more than the stroller, it still didn’t make life much easier during the family adventures. For me, it seemed like that the carrier made our kids tired faster somehow… after taking a few steps outside, one of the kids surely ended up being on Daddy’s back right away, as they got ‘so-so exhausted’… And on the top of that, this terrible fatigue seemed to be highly contagious when we had the carrier with us, as all the sudden everyone had to be carried around, and Daddy could barely handle the demands.
So we decided that it’s better for everyone to discover nature on their own two feet (except for the smallest kiddo who is not even one-year-old, but who would already love to join us in our outside adventures if he wasn’t retained at home by his ruthless mother ? )
So we kept looking for other ways that could help with getting the kids actually enjoy the trails and tracks of the forests. Below I would like to share some tips with you on how to turn a mandatory excursion into a memorable experience full of fun for the kids, and maybe even make them want to go hiking again and again and learn more about nature.
1. Motivate your children. Let them know what is waiting for them and what is going to happen during the time you spend outside. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 get more excited if there’s a destination to the trip, like a castle, a tower or a viewpoint that gets their imagination going. You can also read into the history of the sights. Like this, you have a good tool at hand in case one of the children gets tired or decides to throw a tantrum. You may be able to distract the kids by telling them some of the interesting stories.
2. Know your child’s limits. It is very important to pick the right amount of distance and elevation. It makes no sense to plan on a hike that your child cannot accomplish just yet.
3. Pick the beginners’ trails. It may help you to pick those easy routes at first that are designated for beginner hikers specifically. You may be able to get brochures designed for children along these trails that contain fun information for the little ones. Then you can make the planned hiking distance longer gradually.
4. Go hiking with your kids’ buddies. If it is possible, you should try going on the trips with other families so you can provide company for your kids. Children have a greater need for socializing with other kids from around the ages of 4 or 5. When they can play together during an excursion, the trip will be over in the blink of an eye.
5. Get over the stalemate. When we still experience difficulties during the trip – meaning the kids get bored with all the marching or start whining – then we turn to the good old rhymes and songs for help that the kids learn at the kindergarten. It may be best to pick the ones about nature at these times.
Children are genuinely interested in literally anything, you just need to find the right way to present the information to them. They gladly examine everything they can find on the ground: the different types of leaves, plants, flowers and animal footprints as well. If you’re not exactly a master of these topics, browse for useful information online, or just take a plant inventory with you.
It’s such a delight to see how long our three-year-old daughter can play with just a pebble. A hundred meter long (short) road could easily take a day for her to get through, as she would want to check out everything she can find on the way.
And lastly, I can’t wrap this blog entry up without addressing my kids’ passion for collecting treasure in the forest. There’s no excursion from which they wouldn’t return with their pockets full of pebbles, snail shells, forest crops and who knows what else, that they gladly brag about in the kindergarten.