Teaching your children to appreciate the outdoors and move through it safely and ethically is a wonderful gift. Spending time in nature is good for everyone, and kids hiking is a way to keep them physically active. A walk in the woods can also be a great way to bond with children. Something about walking out on trails together can spark conversation and closeness in a way few other activities do.
However, it’s important that you introduce children to hiking in a way that ensures they will enjoy it. If you think back to your own childhood, you probably remember activities that your parents dragged you along on that you’ve never been inclined to explore yourself as a result. The tips below will help you avoid this outcome and help your kids learn to love the outdoors.
When Can You Start Hiking With Kids?
The sooner you start kids hiking the better. You can start hiking when your child is an infant with a baby carrier. Toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy walks on short paths. What’s important is that you make hiking just a regular activity that you engage in all the time.
Check out the Izmi Baby Wraps & Carriers to get your baby out on hikes from a newborn
Find Age Appropriate Trails
It’s also important to scale down your expectations of what your kids can accomplish. Find trails that will be interesting to them, with features such as waterfalls and picnic areas. You can also play games, such as I Spy, or bring along binoculars or other tools to help them be more observant. Take photos of wildlife spotted. Remember to make it about the journey and not the destination. If your kids want to pick blackberries and play in the creek, that’s more important than finishing the hike you planned. Let them lead the way.
Give Them Ownership
One of the reasons parents’ efforts to pass their own interests down to their kids doesn’t stick is because they often want to retain too much control over that interest. You need to let your kids make hiking their own thing. One way to do that is by helping them pick out some of their own gear when they are old enough. With a tent and sleeping bag, they could camp in the back yard. You can take out a personal loan to pay for gear you want to get it for a special occasion, such as a birthday, or just before a vacation and you don’t have any money saved up. Personal loans are often a better option than a credit card. You can also let them have a part in planning some of the hiking trips. Give them a choice of a few trails, or encourage them to do the research on their own if they want to and are able.
Few things will put kids off hiking and camping as quickly as being hungry or thirsty, so be sure that you have plenty of healthy travel snacks and water. Make sure your children have comfortable, appropriate clothing, including layers if it is appropriate, and be sure to put sunscreen on them. Bring a map that they can look at and follow the route, and start teaching them leave no trace principles as soon as they are old enough to understand them.