Getting your kids out in the great outdoors is going to benefit their physical and mental health, and if it’s done right they’ll be begging you to go again.
Hiking tends to be something you will explore as you leave the years of young adulthood behind, but with this departure brings little ones of your own. But hiking can be great way to show your kids the beauty of nature, take them away from the concrete jungle and get them nice and tired for bedtime, win win. The trouble is working out how you can you make hiking fun for your smartphone and Xbox-obsessed youth.
Keep it Simple
As with any hiker’s beginnings, you can’t go camping up the top-end of Ben Nevis straight off the bat. Introduce your little ones with smaller hikes that their little legs can handle, but be prepared, you might have to give them a piggy back at some point on the way home. Choose places with natural beauty, with opportunities for them to engage in imaginative play. Think fantasy-like woodland areas, or historic castles. You might even find you’ve got a future historian in your midst along the many trails featuring museums or exhibitions dedicated our country’s rich past.
Keep it Safe
Though you might be heading to smaller, more pathed and busier trails, never underestimate the elements or the unexpected. Especially with the younger participants, be extra careful to pack simple first aid equipment, like anti-bacterial wipes and plasters. Of course, if you are heading through a very well known and short trail, a survival bag, sleeping bag and spare food is a little OTT, but why not pack your full hiking kit for test run purposes. You’ll even add some extra weight to get those legs nice and toned alongside teaching your kids the importance of precaution in the wilderness. Education aside, never forget the basics, lots of extra weather appropriate layers (warmth and waterproofed), plenty of water and letting people know where you are going.
Keep it Foolish
Have fun. There are plenty of ways to make hikes more exciting past our more age-appropriate appreciation of the great outdoors: fresh air, beauty and peacefulness. Why not research some stories about the area, and create games to play. Old classics like I spy with my little eye are going to work brilliantly here. Why don’t you bring out the photographer in your kids and ask them to try get some nice snaps of the scenery, or write them a list of route-specific landmarks to spot and note down.
Aside from hide and seek and landmark spotting, here are some other ideas to keep the little ones entertained:
# Scavenger Hunts
You can create a list of things for the children to spot, sketch or photograph. This can give them more of a sense of adventure through trying to find particular points of scenery or specific landmarks to add to a predetermined list you have prepared. You could do this through finding particular colours, certain types of tree or plant, or even certain animals that might be in the area. Alternatively, a more obvious historic building or ruin along the path.
# Follow the Leader
You must always practice caution letting them take the reins, but how about letting them lead the group under your watchful eye. Kids love to feel responsibility and it can be a great way to build leadership skills and maybe even a little map reading for your future hiking hotshot. Just make sure you remember to keep check on the route. Letting the kids map read, make decisions on paths (that you know are safe), and feel a sense of supervised empowerment can be a great way to make it more fun.
# Educated Entertainment
There are no end of games and excitement you can create on your family ramble, but ensure to pass on the knowledge that all hikers should follow. Teach them to expect enjoyment, adventure and awe at nature’s beauty, but also to pack safe, plan correctly, dress right and the golden rule – leave no trace. Nature is a beautiful, physically and mentally rewarding place, but leave it as it was found.