the village - Five ways to get your kids excited about hiking

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The village: helping raise parents with our own blend of parenting stories, advice, hacks and cool finds
Five ways to get your kids excited about hiking

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Five ways to get your kids excited about hiking!

By Krista Lii

Over the years, hiking has become a favourite family activity of ours. There’s nothing quite like that sense of accomplishment when we finally reach the top of the trail!

We recently hiked a very challenging trail with our children. Although we have hiked longer trails together; this one included a very focused climb up ragged boulders to the top of the mountain. The kids scrambled up the rocks, and the other hikers we passed were never without comment; they were very impressed and wanted to know how we managed to bribe our kids to do this trail. Truth be told, our kids now enjoy the more challenging hikes, as the steep climbs and obstacles keep it interesting for them. I’m convinced they are part mountain goat.

That said, we’ve definitely all been in the situation of having a child that sometimes lacks enthusiasm for heading outdoors (especially for hiking!) And when that happens, I have some methods for getting them excited about the hike we’re about to take. I’m sharing my go-tos with you below!

Method One. “You Lead The Way”

“You lead the way.” Those four simple words, spoken at the start of a hike are a total game changer. It’s a little trick I learned a long time ago, and I’ve kept it in my pocket to use when appropriate. It has always worked like a charm to get my children excited to explore!

“You lead the way” means they have control. Why does this matter? Because free time out in nature gives children opportunities to play, imagine, and use their senses to explore. Free time in nature leads to questions like “Why are leaves green?” and “Why do bullrushes look like hotdogs?” (that’s my seven-year-old son for you). In all seriousness though, the things they grow curious about in nature get them excited about future hikes. Children should have time to use their natural curiosity to learn about the world around them.

“You lead the way”… if you haven’t tried that yet, or if you have a child that sometimes lacks enthusiasm for heading out on a hike, try letting them lead the way and see what unfolds!

Method Two. Hunt for treasure!

Children love to gather! I find whenever we bring a basket along on our forest walks, my kids can’t resist collecting treasures along the way. It’s not uncommon for my children to come back from the forest with their pockets full of pine cones or some other treasure. Because of this, we’ve kept a designated spot for nature finds in our home for a few years now!

A family nature shelf is a great way to connect with nature and bring the outdoors into your home. It also gets kids excited about their next hike! What treasures will they find today?! The nature shelf doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be a shelf; it could be a table, or box!

Have them take a basket on your next hike. Your kids will be so excited to bring home a special “treasure” from their hike with you.

An Image

Method Three. Remember fuel for the trail!

Perhaps my biggest advice for going on a hike with children is to pack snacks! I don’t know about your kids, but mine are bottomless pits so I always have a little something stashed away in my backpack for them.

Some of my go-to snacks for hiking are: bananas, apples, trail mix (of course!) granola bars, muffins, an avocado, hard boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, popcorn, or applesauce pouches.

Last summer we hiked ‘The Crack’ trail with our kids in Killarney Provincial Park. It took about five hours from start to finish. Needless to say, I packed a ton of snacks (and water!) along for the adventure. When we arrived at the summit of the trail, we enjoyed some peanut butter sandwiches together before starting our way back down. And, in full disclosure, some gummy bears were shared as well. 😉 It never hurts to pack along an EXTRA special treat for your hikes, when motivation is needed. And who doesn’t love a break for a picnic? Just remember to always carry out your garbage.

“Sometimes we need to slow down to notice the magic of nature. Our children instinctively understand this, yet us adults sometimes just want to hurry hurry hurry.”

Method Four. Make it a game!

Kids love games, and they won’t be able to resist a bit of fun competition during your next hike in the woods. One of my favourite games to play is Hiking Bingo! Prepare your list of items in advance of the hike, and as you walk the trail, players call out the item they’ve spotted. Some ideas to include in the search: squirrel, black backpack, spider web, feather, bicycle, hiker, tree stump, animal footprints, trail marker, mushroom, caterpillar... the possibilities are endless! Kids LOVE being given missions to accomplish, which is why Hiking Bingo is a great way to get them into hiking. They’ll be so busy trying to find the next item on the list, that they won’t even notice the ground being covered. For an extra challenge, and a bit of friendly competition, allow only one player to claim each sighting! For example, if a mushroom is spotted, the player must call out “Mushroom!” Whoever calls out the object first, claims that sighting. Everyone else must keep their eyes peeled for the next mushroom.

The objects to find can depend on the season, too. Get creative! Every season has its own special beauty in the forest, and you can include those items in the hunt!

Method Five. Don’t call it a hike!

It sounds simple, but it’s true! I prefer saying we’re going to explore the forest, or we’re going on an adventure. Kids don’t like to rush to the destination; they prefer to ramble, and take their time exploring every nook and cranny of the woods. Sometimes we need to slow down to notice the magic of nature. Our children instinctively understand this, yet us adults sometimes just want to hurry hurry hurry. It’s a lesson we can certainly learn from our kids.

Perhaps John Muir said it best:

“I don't like either the word ‘hike’, or the thing. People ought to saunter in the woods, not hike. Do you know the origin of that word; saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages, people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, 'à la sainte terre', meaning ‘to the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these woods are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.”

An Image

Remember to pace yourself.

I hope you’ll find these techniques helpful on your next family hike! At the end of the day, remember to take it slow, and give your kids time to adjust. Work their way up slowly. Their love for hiking might not happen overnight. I find that hiking shorter trails very frequently will help get kids used to this activity, as opposed to hiking a long trail once every blue moon. I often have to remind myself that my kids have shorter legs, and they are likely walking twice the distance I am on our hikes. Short trails can be very rewarding for children; making them experience a feeling of accomplishment and pride. So keep at it, and have fun together! Over time, with a bit of preparation and planning, they will see just how exciting hiking can be!

About the Author: Krista Lii is a homeschooling, nature-loving mother of four living in Ontario, Canada. She’s also a professional photographer with an emphasis on outdoor lifestyle. She loves exploring the local forests with her children, and she is passionate about getting out into nature every day, no matter the weather. Her family adventures are shared on Instagram. She writes a blog about her homeschooling and nature exploration, which you can read over at www.ourwildness.com.

PLAY

Five ways to get your kids excited about hiking!

By Krista Lii

Over the years, hiking has become a favourite family activity of ours. There’s nothing quite like that sense of accomplishment when we finally reach the top of the trail!

We recently hiked a very challenging trail with our children. Although we have hiked longer trails together; this one included a very focused climb up ragged boulders to the top of the mountain. The kids scrambled up the rocks, and the other hikers we passed were never without comment; they were very impressed and wanted to know how we managed to bribe our kids to do this trail. Truth be told, our kids now enjoy the more challenging hikes, as the steep climbs and obstacles keep it interesting for them. I’m convinced they are part mountain goat.

That said, we’ve definitely all been in the situation of having a child that sometimes lacks enthusiasm for heading outdoors (especially for hiking!) And when that happens, I have some methods for getting them excited about the hike we’re about to take. I’m sharing my go-tos with you below!

Method One. “You Lead The Way”

“You lead the way.” Those four simple words, spoken at the start of a hike are a total game changer. It’s a little trick I learned a long time ago, and I’ve kept it in my pocket to use when appropriate. It has always worked like a charm to get my children excited to explore!

“You lead the way” means they have control. Why does this matter? Because free time out in nature gives children opportunities to play, imagine, and use their senses to explore. Free time in nature leads to questions like “Why are leaves green?” and “Why do bullrushes look like hotdogs?” (that’s my seven-year-old son for you). In all seriousness though, the things they grow curious about in nature get them excited about future hikes. Children should have time to use their natural curiosity to learn about the world around them.

“You lead the way”… if you haven’t tried that yet, or if you have a child that sometimes lacks enthusiasm for heading out on a hike, try letting them lead the way and see what unfolds!

Method Two. Hunt for treasure!

Children love to gather! I find whenever we bring a basket along on our forest walks, my kids can’t resist collecting treasures along the way. It’s not uncommon for my children to come back from the forest with their pockets full of pine cones or some other treasure. Because of this, we’ve kept a designated spot for nature finds in our home for a few years now!

A family nature shelf is a great way to connect with nature and bring the outdoors into your home. It also gets kids excited about their next hike! What treasures will they find today?! The nature shelf doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be a shelf; it could be a table, or box!

Have them take a basket on your next hike. Your kids will be so excited to bring home a special “treasure” from their hike with you.

Method Three. Remember fuel for the trail!

Perhaps my biggest advice for going on a hike with children is to pack snacks! I don’t know about your kids, but mine are bottomless pits so I always have a little something stashed away in my backpack for them.

Some of my go-to snacks for hiking are: bananas, apples, trail mix (of course!) granola bars, muffins, an avocado, hard boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, popcorn, or applesauce pouches.

“Sometimes we need to slow down to notice the magic of nature. Our children instinctively understand this, yet us adults sometimes just want to hurry hurry hurry.”

Last summer we hiked ‘The Crack’ trail with our kids in Killarney Provincial Park. It took about five hours from start to finish. Needless to say, I packed a ton of snacks (and water!) along for the adventure. When we arrived at the summit of the trail, we enjoyed some peanut butter sandwiches together before starting our way back down. And, in full disclosure, some gummy bears were shared as well. 😉 It never hurts to pack along an EXTRA special treat for your hikes, when motivation is needed. And who doesn’t love a break for a picnic? Just remember to always carry out your garbage.

An Image

Method Four. Make it a game!

Kids love games, and they won’t be able to resist a bit of fun competition during your next hike in the woods. One of my favourite games to play is Hiking Bingo! Prepare your list of items in advance of the hike, and as you walk the trail, players call out the item they’ve spotted. Some ideas to include in the search: squirrel, black backpack, spider web, feather, bicycle, hiker, tree stump, animal footprints, trail marker, mushroom, caterpillar... the possibilities are endless! Kids LOVE being given missions to accomplish, which is why Hiking Bingo is a great way to get them into hiking. They’ll be so busy trying to find the next item on the list, that they won’t even notice the ground being covered. For an extra challenge, and a bit of friendly competition, allow only one player to claim each sighting! For example, if a mushroom is spotted, the player must call out “Mushroom!” Whoever calls out the object first, claims that sighting. Everyone else must keep their eyes peeled for the next mushroom.

The objects to find can depend on the season, too. Get creative! Every season has its own special beauty in the forest, and you can include those items in the hunt!

Method Five. Don’t call it a hike!

It sounds simple, but it’s true! I prefer saying we’re going to explore the forest, or we’re going on an adventure. Kids don’t like to rush to the destination; they prefer to ramble, and take their time exploring every nook and cranny of the woods. Sometimes we need to slow down to notice the magic of nature. Our children instinctively understand this, yet us adults sometimes just want to hurry hurry hurry. It’s a lesson we can certainly learn from our kids.

Perhaps John Muir said it best:

“I don't like either the word ‘hike’, or the thing. People ought to saunter in the woods, not hike. Do you know the origin of that word; saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages, people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, 'à la sainte terre', meaning ‘to the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these woods are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.”

An Image

Remember to pace yourself.

I hope you’ll find these techniques helpful on your next family hike! At the end of the day, remember to take it slow, and give your kids time to adjust. Work their way up slowly. Their love for hiking might not happen overnight. I find that hiking shorter trails very frequently will help get kids used to this activity, as opposed to hiking a long trail once every blue moon. I often have to remind myself that my kids have shorter legs, and they are likely walking twice the distance I am on our hikes. Short trails can be very rewarding for children; making them experience a feeling of accomplishment and pride. So keep at it, and have fun together! Over time, with a bit of preparation and planning, they will see just how exciting hiking can be!

About the Author: Krista Lii is a homeschooling, nature-loving mother of four living in Ontario, Canada. She’s also a professional photographer with an emphasis on outdoor lifestyle. She loves exploring the local forests with her children, and she is passionate about getting out into nature every day, no matter the weather. Her family adventures are shared on Instagram. She writes a blog about her homeschooling and nature exploration, which you can read over at www.ourwildness.com.

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