How to encourage your kids to hike

January 21 2019

Hiking with your kids can be so rewarding. It can also be a total mission! But persevere. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with my littles have been out in nature, examining things together. They really engage, and that’s when you KNOW you’re creating memories.
Here are some tips, from one outdoorsy mama to another:

  • Start young! As soon as they can walk, encourage your toddler to explore alongside you. Be patient and take things at their (very slow!) pace. Don’t carry them around all the time, or they will come to expect this, and they won’t develop leg strength and stamina to tackle longer walks. Pop them in the carrier when they need a rest, sleep, or when you really need to actually get somewhere 😉
  • Get your pre-schooler to carry their own little backpack on hikes right from the start (even if it only has their stuffed toy in it, ha) – then it becomes standard practise as they get older when they can carry their own stuff – you don’t always want to be ‘the packhorse!’
  • With my boys, it’s all about the snacks. Take more than you think you’ll need (and water too).
  • A bit of bribery can be a cornerstone of parenthood 😉 take some special treats they don’t usually have (eg a marshmallow, or yummy fruit like mango), or a sticker, to reward them at the top of the hill
  • Pour praise upon them whilst walking – they are strong! They are adventurous! They are so good at hiking!
  • Play games like I spy, spelling words, quizzes like ‘What’s the capital city of (insert country)’ , sing songs, learn poems (we do The Owl and the Pussycat) go through the alphabet with an animal for each letter and discuss all the things you can think of for each animal, play ‘hide and seek’ where one person goes ahead a little and hides on the side of the track then jumps out to ‘scare’ the others with a ferocious roar LOL… anything you can think of to distract them from complaining!
  • Go with another family, or take your child’s (capable) friend…children are more likely to interact with their friend while walking and forget about ‘being bored’
  • Mix it up with walking old favourite trails, and finding somewhere new
  • Involve your child in the decisions of where to go, what to take, packing, looking at the map etc. Make them feel responsible and grown up and they’re less likely to revert to immature behaviour on a hiking trip.
  • Put them in charge of documenting your hike, via photos, drawings, collecting leaves etc.
  • Make them a little certificate after each walk with the name of the trail, distance covered, and maybe the best thing about your day there. They can keep them in a little folder as mementoes or put them on the wall.
  • Look for treasures together along the way – interesting leaves, cicada shells, feathers etc
  • Listen out for and look for birds
  • Tell them stories about when YOU were little to pass the time!
  • Watch the clouds and the weather, and use the time to discuss things like why rain falls, how rainbows form, what different cloud shapes mean, how to find North, South, East and West, why the tide comes in and goes out… (you can find out the answers to lots of these questions in previous posts on this blog)
  • Remember to have fun! Especially in the early days, it is all about them and their enjoyment. If you go at their pace, and look at what they want to engage with, and forget about your own agenda (eg making it to the waterfall, getting somewhere by a certain time) then you will all have a much better time.

Do you have any tips to share! Feel free to comment!