As an outdoors person and a parent, one of the most rewarding things you can do is introduce your kids to hiking. Many of us grew up with hiking as a normal part of our childhood and understand that our deep love for outdoor activities began when we were quite small ourselves.
If you’re a parent and you’d like to know more about introducing your kids to hiking, or you’re not yet a parent, and you’d like to know if you can continue your outdoor pursuits after kids, we’ve got some ideas for you.
- Start early! Many parents continue regular hikes when their babies are still very small and can be carried in a wrap or pack. Keep hiking as the baby grows, and they won’t even think twice about why they’re in the middle of the woods, instead they’ll feel at home.
- Over Prepare. You may not be able to go ultralight for a few years. Kids come with a lot of accessories. We’re not above bribing the kids with treats along the trail and we recommend more snacks than usual— snacks are fun!. Also make sure you bring plenty of water. Turn breaks and water stops into a game.
- Make sure the kids have properly fitting equipment, too. From boots to waterproof jackets, maybe their own backpack, flashlight or compass, it’s always fun for kids to get new things and they will be eager to test them out. A first-aid kit is an essential thing to bring too, and consider the needs of your child. They may want a particular toy or article of clothing, so prepare for it.
- Be Realistic. At different stages in life, children have vastly different attention spans, and they also have limited endurance. Be realistic about how much a child can take on, and keep your expectations in check. You’re not there to break any records or get a super hard workout in. This is about being present and mindful with your child.
- Bring your patience. Don’t be discouraged if very small kids don’t want to go very far, whine a lot or complain. Try to keep them entertained with fun outdoor activities, like identifying animal sounds, identifying as many colors as possible, or bringing a checklist of things to see in a sort of natural scavenger hunt. It will take time to build distance, but the more you get out there, the more the kids will rise to the occasion and eventually you’ll find they will beg you to go hike!
- Boost their confidence. One way to encourage children in the outdoors is to let them be in charge. Let them follow the route on a map, or allow them to choose the trail. Let them choose when and where to stop. Be enthusiastic about their choices and optimistic about the day, and it will help keep everyone’s mood afloat.
Having children absolutely does not mean the end of your freedom, or your outdoor lifestyle. Raising kids to get outside has many benefits: a respect for nature and a love for being outside. It will instill in them a confidence, and they’ll develop instincts and a trust for their own intuition. There are of course, physical health benefits to establishing an athletic foundation as well. Remember that nature makes a great playground, for both you and your children.