How to help your children enjoy their first hike?
If you’ve never been on a hike with your little one, there’s no better time than the present. From improving their motor skills to learning about the great outdoors, children can benefit greatly from spending time on a hiking path. Plus, hiking is just plain fun.
If you’re unsure how to plan the perfect hike for your child, here are a few tips to make the experience an enjoyable one for both of you.
Pick the right outfit
Before you head out on your hike, make sure you choose the right outfit for your child. Depending on the trail and the weather they may need rainboots, a jacket, hats, gloves, hiking shoes or a windbreaker. Dress them in layers so they can change in or out of them as the temperature changes.
You want them to be comfortable enough to enjoy their hike. Additionally, bring a change of clothes for them to wear on the ride home just in case they got dirty or wet on the trail.
Make nature bingo sheets
You might also plan ahead and create nature bingo sheets to take with you. You can also find a few completed templates online. Print a few different ones so if your child fills one up, they can keep playing.
Pack stickers so your child can easily fill their board spaces. Giving your child a game like this will encourage them to take in the world around them and notice even the smallest leaf or caterpillar.
It’s also a good idea to bring water and snacks, especially if you know the hike will be a bit long. You might even pack a picnic basket so you can enjoy a small meal at the end of your hike.
If it looks like it might rain, be sure to place the food in a plastic bag or airtight container to keep it dry and fresh until you’re ready to eat. And, if it’s cold outside, bring a thermos of hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up you and your little one.
Choose a fun trail
What does your child like to do when they go outside? Do they love climbing or swinging on things? Or do they gravitate towards water? Choosing a path that incorporates these things will help your child stay engaged and enjoy the hike even more.
Find a path with a stream, big boulders or even caves. And make sure there’s time for your kids to enjoy the final destination, whether it be a scenic lookout, a sand dune or a waterfall.
If you have an older child, try to start up a conversation on your hike. Ask them simple questions about things they’re interested in. This will help you both connect with your child and keep them walking.
If your kid isn’t a huge talker, think about questions you can ask them in advance. Even simple questions about their favorite ice cream flavor or toy can get them talking if they’re interested enough in the topic.
Let them explore
More children are hospitalized from falling out of bed than from falling out of trees. So if you’re worried about giving your child free rein to explore nature, you probably shouldn’t be. Let them climb boulders and play in the mud. You packed that extra set of clothes for a reason, remember? So let go of their hand and let them run wild.
Giving your kid the freedom to explore will make the hike so much more interesting and enjoyable for both of you.
Look for animal tracks
While they’re skipping and hopping around, they may not notice small details like animal tracks. So be on the lookout for prints. The best time to find them is in the morning or later in the day when the paths are free of human footprints and the shadows make tracks easier to see.
If you do manage to spot any, point them out to your child. Have them try to guess what animal made them. Talk about all the animals of the forest and see if your little one can spot any.
Above all, encourage your child to use their imagination. Nature is a world free of screens, technology and other distracting items, making it the perfect place to play imagination. Act like you’re explorers in the rainforest or even bears, lions or deer.
Joining in the fun and promoting imagination in this way will help your child enjoy the hike. But it will also allow them to develop important social skills like empathy, co-operation, and understanding. So get a little wild and let your imaginations flow as you hike.