Do you love hiking? If you work it right, you could help your children to love this sport too.
Here are eight tips for helping to instill that love in them:
1. Tailor the hike to the abilities of the children. I think my wife and I failed at this one when our kids were young. We may have pushed them too hard. One daughter hated hiking and swore she would never spend any more energy on that type of activity when she grew up. As fate would have it, though, she joined the army and learned how forced marches are not that much different from a good hike in the mountains. Surpise. She rather likes the physical training the army provides. You just never know.
2. Choose a pace to match the abilities of the youngest or least-fit child.
3. Make sure you schedule rest stops when the kids need them, not when the adults need them.
4. Provide snacks to keep their energy up along the way. Make sure the snacks are high in protein and not too high in sugar.
5. Let the kids take a look at the map you carry. Show them your route. Teach them map features and usefulness. Show them your route and how the map represents real geographic features like lakes, streams and mountains.
6. Teach the children what you know about your surroundings. Can you or another adult in the group identify trees, flowers or wildlife? Point out these natural features to the kids. Quiz them later during the hike when you encounter another object that you identified for them previously. Don’t make it too academic. Keep it fun.
7. Encourage your kid(s) to invite a friend. They’ll enjoy the adventure much more if you do.
8. At the end of the hike, debrief the youngsters to find out what they enjoyed the most or the least. This information can be very useful for future hikes.
By following this brief list of tips for hiking with children, you just might instill in them the same love for wilderness trekking that you have.
By Richard Davidian, Ph.D.
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