Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to get your children interested in day hiking

To ensure kids remain interested in hiking,
allow them to explore the trail on their
one terms. This three-year-old is watching
 a bug cross the trail.
How do you get kids interested in hiking? The answer is simple: See the hike through the tyke’s eyes.

Because kids are smaller and less physically developed than adults and because they cognitively and emotionally are in a different world than us, they’re not going to see the hike in the same way as an adult. Since we want to make the hike fun for them – and there are many benefits of doing just that – we have to see the hike as they would so that we can appeal to their interests.

Some quick tips:
g Get them involved in the planning – Have your children help you plan the hike. They can help select the trail (meaning they’ll pick one that interests them), and if old enough they can highlight it on a topo map. Also allow them to help select their gear.
g Ensure there’s a midpoint payoff – When selecting a trail to hike, make sure there’s something interesting about half way along the journey. It might be a waterfall, a cool set of boulders to clamber over, or an old abandoned structure. This will surprise and delight kids, keeping up their energy and enthusiasm.
g Let them explore on their terms – While you must ensure they play it safe, you still have to let them play. If they want to stop and listen to singing birds, then stop and listen to singing birds. If they want to pause and bend over to examine a bug crossing the trail, then be prepared to pause.

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