Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to change reluctant little hikers' minds

"But I don't want to hike anymore."
Is your child reluctant to hike? Don’t worry, you can get them excited about the hike.

First, there are a couple of different kinds of reluctant kids you might run into. There is the one who doesn’t want to go hiking at all, and then there is the one who doesn’t want to explore when on the trail. Each needs to be addressed a little differently.

Doesn’t want to hike at all
You’ll need to find some ways to get kids enthusiastic about the hike. Consider allowing them to bring a friend along or go hiking with another family that has children (especially of similar age). You also can involve them in the trip planning, selecting snacks, packing, and navigating with map and compass. Then they feel as if you are giving them attention, and they will associate hiking with your respect and love for them.

Do something special at the destination, so the child has something to look forward to. In fact, this is a great idea even if your child is excited about the hike, as doing something special upon reaching your goal is a great way of bonding. Some hikers carry a small camp stove and whip up cups of hot chocolate for everyone in the party. My son and I always share a package of freeze-dried ice cream while gazing out at the view from the mountain top or rock formation we’ve reached.

Doesn’t want to explore on a hike
Let such children focus on what they want to do: scampering over boulders, swimming in a pond, pretending to fight off dragons in the woods. You also might engage them in some activities, particularly ones they like.

Penny J., of Ogden, Utah, offers this unique suggestion: “If a kid who is too heavy to carry doesn’t want to walk anymore but isn’t tired, bribe him by offering him one M&M for every 20 steps he takes. Twenty steps is doable for any kid, especially if there is a reward at the end of it. Be careful, though – you don’t want every hike to be an M&M for every 20 steps beginning at the trailhead.”

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.