Looking for a great way to spend some quality time with your kids? Go take a hike…literally!
To kids in general, the beauty of the natural world elicits wonder and curiosity. It’s a big playground just waiting to be explored. Hiking is a great way to combine quality family time with the benefits of fresh air, exercise while exploring the natural world.
For most children, it’s not about how long the journey is; it’s about the journey itself. Think about it from their perspective. They are slower and their legs are smaller and closer to the ground so by taking the time to look at the world through their eyes, with their sense of wonder and their short attention span, you can take a cue from them and build a real appreciation and a love for the outdoors with our children.
This is a great time to just slow down to their pace and enjoy the hike. It may only consist of only hiking a half mile over the span of two hours, but that’s okay. Let them set the pace. Give them their own pack to carry just the essentials at first: a snack, some water and a spare layer of clothes. Also, attach a plastic whistle to the backpack so your child can summon help if needed.
As a parent, your job is to be sensitive and aware of their energy and attitude, and be ready to make alternate plans at a moments notice. Most importantly, you must be prepared to carry them when they get tired. And at some point, they will.
Here are some helpful hints and things to keep in mind when preparing your children for hiking.
1. Make sure you pack snacks in small plastic bags so your child can munch as you walk. Offer things like bite-size pieces of fruit, nuts or trail mix and crackers about every half hour if they are walking to keep their blood sugar level up. It will give them a boost of energy.
2. For small children, bring spare diapers and a sealable plastic bag to store them when soiled. Be considerate of others. Don’t pitch them in the forest, and don’t bury disposable diapers.
3. Remember to stop every hour or so to allow for rest, or for toddlers, a time to run around a bit.
4. Apply sunscreen to your child. Make sure it is at least SPF 15 and protects against UV rays.
5. If the weather is cold, keep your child bundled up. Children will become cold long before adults will.
6. If the weather is hot, a T-shirt and shorts are suitable for kids to wear. Wearing a hat is a good idea. That is if you can keep it on their heads and not thrown along the trail somewhere. Attaching a small umbrella to the backpack can be quite handy to use for shade, especially if you are hiking in open country.
7. Establish safety rules for your children. Before taking your kids out on a hike, make sure you stress the importance of remaining on the trail and staying put in the unlikely event you become separated. Also, dress your child in bright colors to make him or her easier to spot.
8. Scale back your expectations. Whether your child is riding on your back or tramping at your side, he or she will determine the pace.
Children don’t seem to care about mileage, or destination, it is the sense of wonder that will to stay in your memory. Spider webs, dew drops, a crawling bug, a butterfly, even an ant hill can be fascinating. There is a real sense of joy in re-discovering nature through a child’s eyes. As they grow, they will begin to enjoy the hike, the mileage and the view from the top more, but starting early will allow you to work up to that point, together, as a family.
Adapted from Buzzle.com