You might be mistaken to think that my kids are adventurous, resilient and great hikers. This to a point is true… now.
It has taken a lot of time, in fact years to get to a stage that I can confidently say to my kids “let’s go on a hike” and not receive some complainants or even tears from at least one of my kids.
In fact, it wasn’t to very recently that my youngest child at 7 years confidently led us on a nearly 5 hour hike in the Blue Mountains, climbing up 900 stairs, without any melt downs. I was, to say the least, very proud of her and relieved to finally get to this stage!
Not all my kids have been like this. My son for example has been tackling long, complicated hikes since he was quiet young. Honestly, he can walk and walk forever! While the three older girls have differing levels of love / hate relationships with hiking all will complete hikes on their own terms.
So, no matter how old your kids are, here are a few ideas on how to encourage them to enjoy hiking with you…without the tears!
Remember that each child is different!
Like everything with kids, each one of them will react differently to the idea of hiking. Just like the differences between each of my kids when it come to hitting the trails. Some love to power down the path while others take their time, checking out everything that catches their eye and other kids have the “need” to stop every 15mins to have a snack. Also remember that just because one of your children loved hiking from very young doesn’t mean that your next child will love it so much! The only way to tackle each child’s approach to hiking is patience. Give them time gain an understanding of how to pace themselves, give them time to explore the environment and be patient with them during this time!
Start young and start small.
Start hiking in nature as soon as your children are born, if possible. Using a baby pouch / sling and later a child carrier back pack, get out and hike with them. As soon as they are stable on their feet let them walk some of the way, and be prepared for them to be slow!! Also start off on some short walks, especially if you are carrying them or they are going to walk a bit themselves! Start with hikes that are easy and will take no more than half hour to walk and might give something for the kids to look at like a stream or waterfall. Consider walking into a longer trail and turning around after a set time and next time you visit go that bit further.
Allow enough time/ add time
Always remember that hiking with kids will take longer then if you were doing it by yourself. Add extra time to allow for little legs, checking out bugs and splashing in puddles that inevitably comes with hiking with kids. Make sure you allow time for plenty of breaks to rest and eat / drink especially for longer hikes. If you don’t stop regularly the kids will get grumpy fast! Make sure you leave early enough in the day to allow for these breaks and exploring, kids hate it if they are rushed along a hike. Time it so you don’t end up being out to close to dinner…hunger, kids and hiking don’t go well together!
Talking about hunger brings me to being prepared for the inevitable “I’m hungry” that comes with kids and hiking. Make sure you bring lots of snacks, fruit, sandwiches and water… and some chocolate and lollies won’t hurt either! Even if it is the shortest hike possible bring snacks and water!! Sometimes my kids will take a camera to document their hikes and walkie talkies (Check out them here) also can make the hike not only safer but also a little more fun! Make sure you are aware of the weather conditions that you will be hiking in and prepare for it. Kids will hate hiking if they get wet and cold then you want them to walk back, believe me there will be melt downs! Make sure you pack rain jackets and jumpers if it is predicted to be bad weather but on the other hand make sure you have hats and sunscreen as well! A small first aid kit is always going to also very important especially if they contain bandaids so that small scratch doesn’t turn into a big tragedy!
Be consistent and don’t give up!
My biggest tip is not give up! If you want to successfully hike with your kids then keep going! Make regular time to go for hikes, each time making them a little longer a little harder and over time the kids will get better at hiking (even if it takes a couple of years!) And my last tip…. Don’t forget to praise the kids for their achievements and Hi fives all around when you make it to your destination! And a little bribery of a trip to Mc Donalds or chocolate sometimes doesn’t hurt either!
My top 5 tips should have your kids loving to hit the trails and soon you might even be embarking on an overnight hike!
What tips do you have to share with everyone to encourage children to hike!
(all pics from our hike from Leura to Echo point up the Giant staircase – 900 stairs- and back!)
Like what you see?