Turn your kids into life-long lovers of the outdoors
When getting out with kids, you have an opportunity to them into life-long hiking (and snowshoeing) enthusiasts if you play your cards right.
If you’re a outdoor lover, and you want your kids to love being outside as much as you do, here are some tricks you can use to help ensure that your kids become your willing and enthusiastic companions on hikes for years to come.
1. Be realistic! When planning hikes for the whole family, make sure you’re being realistic about everyone’s skill and endurance levels. First time hikers will have a better time on easy hikes with mild conditions and plenty of opportunities to break for water, rest and snacks. Google “best hiking trails for families” or consult a park ranger or info station at your hiking destination to get a sense of what trails are best for your hikers.
2. Play to your kids’ interests. Although you might think that a hike is a great time without needing to add enhancements, fostering a love of hiking in your kids might require some creativity at first. Choose hikes that tie into your kids’ existing interests to help draw them in. Are they crazy for the ocean? Choose a hike along a coastal trail. Do they love to read? Pair your early hiking trails with books set in similar (or the same) places so the hike helps bring the book to life. Are they big eaters? Make a picnic destination the focus of the hike. Chances are that if you think about the things your kids are into, you’ll be able to find a hike that complements whatever they dig. (Like archaeology, for another example!)
3. Turn the hike into a game. Of course you know that nature is a treasure, but a kid might find that easier to grasp if the hike involves an actual treasure map. Creating games like treasure or scavenger hunts for your kids to play while they’re hiking will make sure they stay engaged with their surroundings and that they have fun the whole time. These can be as simple as printing a list of animals and plants to identify along the trail, or as elaborate as scouting the route in advance to hide clues and plant a “treasure” to find.
4. Welcome their friends. This might not always be possible (or desirable), but when hiking locally, consider encouraging your kids to bring friends on the family hike. Sometimes a hike can be a special bonding experience for families to enjoy alone, but if your goal is to encourage your kids to develop a long-term love of hiking, a concession like including their “besties” is a step in the right direction. (See what we did there?)
5. Surrender some control. There are two easy ways you can get your kids on board for a hike: 1. Let them choose the hike. 2. Trade for something they want to do. In either scenario, your willingness to let go of something will help them feel invested in the activity and encourage open communication that will enhance everyone’s experience with hiking. Consider this: if your child reveals something insightful when bartering an activity s/he wants to do for the hike you want to do, you’ll both learn something about each other. Additionally, if your child chooses the hike, you’ll instill an empowering sense of strength and responsibility– s/he will be more willing to keep a game face during any rough patches on a trail s/he chose, and your kiddo might be looking out for your comfort rather than worrying about his or her own!
A lot of times, just loving something in front of your kids is enough to pique their interest in it. When you want to hedge your bets by actively encouraging them to share your interests, investing a little effort into drawing them in can lead to years of mutual enjoyment. Hiking with kids is a great way to create lasting memories, and making the early hikes especially accessible for newbies is the best way to start.