As parents, if you are nature lovers and outdoor sports passionate, a hiking trip in the mountains is always a reason for joy and adventure. Taking the children along is a great opportunity to spend quality time together, to enjoy nature’s miracles through the wondering eyes and thoughts of a child, to encourage open air physical activity and ignite their love and respect for the environment. But a hiking trip together with the kids may turn into a long torturing excursion both for you and them, starting with the inevitable “I’m tired” and “are we there yet”, and ending with “I want to return home.” So how do we manage to keep the children on track and make everybody enjoy their hiking experience?
1. Set achievable goals
If you want the kids to become as passionate as you about outdoor activities, you will first have to be patient and set achievable goals for the little ones. Choose short hiking paths, don’t push the children into becoming professional athletes on their first experience and progressively train their physical resistance and let them rest when they need to. You are not competing for a marathon, so let the children play, breathe the air, stop walking and enjoy the excursion.
2. Motivate them
Children get easily bored, even while hiking. Make sure you keep their interest on fire by showing them trees and beautiful plants, starting to search for squirrels in the forest, teach them a thing or two about the surrounding environment and keep them focused on the final objective at the end of the hiking trip: a cascade, a unique landscape, anything that will keep them going in excitement. Make sure that even if on the way there aren’t any spots specially designed for children’s entertainment, at least the surrounding nature is fun enough (or make it so) to keep them focused on everything else but their tiredness or boredom.
3. Gear them up properly
One of the biggest threats when hiking with children is to hear them at some point complaining about the “shoes hurting” them, the backpack being too heavy, the coat making them sweat and so on. These are frustrating and sometimes painful aspects that can ruin your family trip. If you’re a passionate hiker, you know already how important hiking gear is and you should probably use an established brand such as The Clymb (if you’re not doing this already). Don’t neglect your children’s gear, even if they are still small.
4. Make sure you have enough provisions
Children get hungry, thirsty or craving for something sweet. Don’t tell them they will eat when you get there, as chances are you won’t get there at all. Make eating breaks and before you leave, make sure you will find camping opportunities on the way or at least you will find some benches and tables set for hikers like you.
5. Reward them for their efforts
At the end of the hiking trail there must be something the children should enjoy. If you are going to be suddenly asked if some falling water was the whole purpose of their trip, looking disappointed and frustrated, make sure you have some ace in your sleeve. Play a game, take out some pre-made medals from your backpack, offer them something they like and keep them by your side, as they will have to walk back now.
If you learn how to determine the children to become as passionate as you about outdoor activities, they will progressively become your best hiking team partners, as seeing nature and exploring it through the eyes of a child is a unique experience for every parent.