Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Leave this at home when hiking with kids

Leave the stuffie at home, not in the wilderness.
There are a number of items I’d recommend leaving at home.

Among them: toys, stuffies, hand-held video games, music-playing devices, the kids’ mobile phones (or at least they shouldn’t be allowed to use them except in the case of an emergency), cigarettes/pipes, purses, and pets (other than dogs) as they’ll have to be left in the vehicle and then run the risk of overheating.

All of them distract you from nature, potentially create dangerous situations, or can be lost. A lost object means recovering ground to look for it, and if children are involved you’ll be the one doing most of the looking.

Parents do differ on many of these objects. Some never would leave the trailhead without ensuring their toddler has some toy in hand. Some believe it’s best to let their teenager take his music-playing device rather than get into an argument about it – after all, you got him outdoors, and into nature at that, so what’s the fuss?

I must admit that I, too, have not followed my advice and let my preschooler take his favorite stuffie on a 10-mile hike through the wilderness. I discussed with him before leaving that he needed to always know where his bunny was and that if he grew tired of carrying it, to give the stuffie to me. He held it the entire way, never dropping it once while riding in the baby carrier. The hike was a great topic of discussion between him and his bunny for the next week.

As a parent, you have to pick your battles.

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