Monday, December 31, 2012

Be patient when day hiking with kids

Children like to explore, so expect several pauses in the
hike to your destination.
To get the most out of your hike with kids, you'll need to be patient.

Children will explore and touch everything on the way. In contrast, most adults hike with the goal of reaching a destination as quickly as they can, as accomplishment of a goal or seeing something spectacular at the endpoint shapes their perception of what a hike should be. To the child, the journey itself is exciting, and much of what is seen along the way is new and intriguing. What may be mundane to adults may mark the first time a child has ever encountered a bird pecking against a tree, a bug crossing a trail, or a frog sitting on a lily pad. Let them stand in the hollow tree or peak their head into a dark cave.

Kids will want to engage their senses. Let them get a little dirty and touch the squishy mud, rub their hands against the rough bark, or stick their nose into the wild-flower. Just make sure they don't touch dangerous plants, like poison ivy.

As Laurence K. of Boulder, Colo., advises:

“Don’t turn the hike a death march. For younger children, the experience, not the accomplishment, is what matters. As children enter their teen years and close on adulthood, they'll start thinking more and more about achieving goals on the trail.”

In addition, don't correct everything your kid does wrong, instead, praise. For every correction made, praise for three things done right; if kid connects hiking with parent criticism, they'll quickly come to dislike hiking.

While we're not doing an adult hike, anymore, we do remain parents, and as such we must remain alert at all times. Hiking can be dangerous, but only when we fail to be safe.

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