Summer is upon us. Now is the time to get outside and bask in all the glory that is the great outdoors. We aren’t just talking to those humans without offspring. Parents - this call is for you as well. The trail is a whole new experience when you have a kid in tow. The pace is slower, attention wanders off trail and small hikes feel like huge accomplishments. I asked some of the families I admire most for their ability to get their kids out on the trail so that I could share some of their tips with you.
In the first of this two part series we are going to give you some markers that will get you in the right headspace when you take the kiddos out on the trail.
- Have realistic expectations. It may go without saying, but that 2-hour hike you think is a nice jaunt in the woods will feel like an expedition for little legs. Each child is different and you will need to gauge what they can do. Some kids like walking, some are all about that stroller life. Start with short, easy trails and progressively add more kilometers or harder terrain as they age and gain experience. Bonus points if you can find a loop trail!
- Allow space for how your child experiences nature. Little hands and curious minds means things are bound to get a bit off track. So, maybe your hike isn’t as linear as you would like but by allowing time and space for your child to explore you will both end up a lot happier at the end of the trek.
- Scavenger Hunts. Off the cuff games can be a real-life saver on the trail and a scavenger hunt can keep motivation going. These don’t have to be pre-planned, use what’s around you. Things like “find a big leaf” or “let’s find 4 acorns” are perfect.
- Bring a map. Not because I think you are going to get lost, but because bringing a printed or drawn map is another great way to keep your child engaged. Let them be ‘in charge’ of the map and help them point things out along the way.
- Snacks are key. Nothing motivates little feet up a hill like the promise of a snack upon arrival at the top. Seriously, bring so many snacks.
- Find a walking stick. I remember going on hikes with my dad when I was young, well what I remember was the hunt for the perfect walking stick. It had to be part functional walking aid and part defence against the ‘monsters’ living under the bridges we would cross. We had to be prepared for battle.
- Bring home a keep sake. Letting your child bring home a small rock they are particularly fond of, or any treasure that has struck their fancy, is a great way to build positive associations with being outdoors. Give your child a box to put these bits in when they get home.
- Pick the right time of day. It’s important to choose the time of day that your child naturally has the most energy. Does your child drag their heels around in the afternoon? You should stick to morning hikes or you will end up carrying them more often and the occurrence of a meltdown multiplies.
- Wear the right clothes! We have another blog post coming next week that’s all about what to wear on your hike.