Hiking With Kids: Success Every Time
We are continuously trying to find more and more ways to reconnect with the world around us and step outside of the confines of modern technology. The benefits of time in Nature-- you know that thing we did all day, every day for the majority of human existence-- are undeniable. If you just close your eyes and imagine a woods waking up or a sunset walk next to the beach, I bet you can conjure up feelings and memories. I bet most, if not all, of those memories are positive. Research even backs up the fact that time in nature is good for your mental health! The kids you know might not even be able to bring up in their mind what a forest sounds. You'd have to take the earbuds out of their ears to even notice it, anyways. We are fighting this Nature Deficit Disorder (read more about that in the GREAT BOOK!) in our home. It doesn't have to be complicated!
A short hike with a picnic meal is a wonderful way to get the whole family moving, change up the routine, and open the eyes of your children to what lies on the other side of the treeline. I love that this activity employs ALL FOUR of the Cornerstones of Health with one great activity- Nourishment, Movement, Enjoyment, and Fulfillment!
Hiking With Kids: Success Every Time
1. Choose your time of day wisely.
We have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old. Needless to say, we are early risers. For us, a breakfast hike is the way to go right now. Another time frame might be better for your family. Regardless, choose a time where "time" doesn't matter. Don't try to cram it in and get it done. That defeats the whole purpose! It's also important to plan your time of day around the place where you will be going. Which brings me to my next point...
2. Pick your location with care.
Don't turn this into some giant deal where you get on the interstate to go to some state park you've heard of and get in traffic and blah, blah, blah. Stay close, stay simple. Look for local places with easy, fast access. There are a ton of mountain biking trails that make for great hiking and make it easy to add more (or abort) as needed. Keep in mind that Mountain Bike Trails means there will be people Mountain Biking. We always try to go at a time that we know is less popular for bikers (Before 9 am on Sat/Sun). Look at the maps of the trails online and select a short one... you can always add more!
3. SLOW DOWN!
Let me repeat.... slow down. You aren't here for exercise, that's a side bonus. You are here to convene with nature and connect with loved ones. I can't tell you how many friends I have tried to bring along just to watch the back side of them as they impatiently "get there." Their nagging "Come on Little Bobby..." repeated next to a million times drowning out the sounds. There is no where to "get." If your kid stops, you stop. Look at something with them. Listen. Try to see what gets them excited. Imitate sounds. Just. Slow. Down. You have food in your bag, so even if somebody gets hungry you are A-OK!
4. Be prepared to carry at least one kid most of the time.
And THAT'S FINE. This isn't the time to make them finish something they started or to teach them to toughen up. The purpose is Nature and FUN. You are cultivating an interest and that requires a positive experience. Besides, carrying a kid makes you get a little exercise bonus, too. As you come out more often, your child will go further and further. Our 3 yr old can easily hike 3+ miles now. I wear the baby and sometimes, I even snatch the older one onto my shoulders for a quick sprint if I feel I need an exercise boost... usually on the way back ;-)
5. Pack food and water.
Don't take more than just a string backpack with your meal and keep it simple. Remember, you'll likely end up carrying a kid at some point. Since we usually go for breakfast we usually take boiled eggs, Banana Bread, Date Balls and Trail Mix. Dinner might be some meats and cheeses with some seed crackers, some fruit, peppers and carrots to scoop out guacamole, and a bit of dark chocolate. Don't forget plenty of water!! HERE is a link to my favorite “Hiking Snacks” that I keep in a Rubbermaid container in the car.
6. Plan for dirt, bugs, and souvenirs.
Depending on the time of day, mosquitoes might be a problem. We steer clear of chemicals, but this is a nice spray to give you a little protection. If you had fun, you likely got dirty! Leave some hand towels in the car for wiping down after your hike. You might even take a bag to throw dirty shoes into for the ride home. My son always finds stuff along the way to carry or flowers for me.... and of course, the perfect stick is a must. We usually tell him to keep one thing and give the rest back to nature.
I can't say enough about how this quick break from the norm, the shake up of routine, and the excitement of adventure can turn around a tough day and change attitudes. Nature's Magic works every time!