Walking or hiking is a great way to spend quality time together outdoors as a family - especially now. Wherever you live in the UK, there’s a wealth of beautiful places waiting to be discovered right on your doorstep.
We caught up with the lovely Lauren from The Helpful Hiker to find out how to get your kids to love hiking.
Walking enables children to get up close to nature, to feel, to hear and to experience the great outdoors. There are also the benefits to our mental and physical health that come with getting plenty of exercise and fresh air. Some children immediately love hiking, others take a bit of persuasion, but here are some great tips for instilling a love of hiking in children of all ages.
1) Don’t call it a hike
Firstly, this is a brilliant tip if your children are a little unsure about hiking. Never call it a hike or a walk-that sounds boring and a bit too much like hard work. Instead call it an adventure, a mission or a hunt. You see, that already sounds so much more interesting! For added excitement, you can include references to their favourite books or characters. I spent many hours traipsing around my local area on a bear hunt when my son was a toddler. Now we’re often off on a rescue mission involving his favourite superhero of the month. Other games you can try while hiking include scavenger hunts, I spy or pooh sticks. Basically, make hiking fun and your children will grow up enjoying a good walk.
2) Age appropriate
Don’t try and attempt too much, particularly with young children. You want them to grow up with a love of hiking, which won’t happen if they see it as hard work. Bear in mind that rough ground, steps and hills are going to be tiring so tailor your routes accordingly and remember that progress may be slow especially if you take snack stops and nappy changes into account. Try and incorporate something interesting to look at, it could just be a tree that can be climbed or walked on, or some animals to spot. One of my son’s favourite routes includes a couple of hides where we can rest and watch the birds.
3) Hand over control
A good way to get older kids involved and engaged with the outdoors and hiking is to give them some control. Let them decide on the route and, if they are able, let them navigate. There are mapping apps which make it easier, although it’s also a great opportunity to teach some basic map reading skills.
4) Be prepared
Hiking is an accessible activity and you don’t need too much specialist kit, particularly if you’re sticking to shorter routes. However, there are a few bits and pieces that are worth investing in. Some sturdy shoes or wellies are vital, especially in the winter, the same can be said for a waterproof coat. A basic first aid kit is also useful as there are always a few scrapes and knocks when children are involved. Children are nearly almost always hungry (or is that just mine?) so a plentiful supply of snacks and drinks help to persuade/bribe even the most reluctant hiker to keep going.
5) Bring the right kit
Remember to pack a kids' waterproof jacket
and appropriate footwear. Weather can change unexpectedly and the last thing you want are cold, unhappy children. Complete your children's outfit with warm, protective accessories
such as hats and neck warmers if you're hiking on a chilly day.