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Moms and Dads, let’s admit this: it’s definitely more work when the kids are around, but we definitely miss them as soon as they storm out of the house and jump on the school bus. No matter how big they say they are, deep down, they’re still our kids.
Here’s a splendid idea: why not take them on a family backpacking trip? Fun, right? Not only would you spend a special moment with them, it would also teach them to love and appreciate nature at an early age.
Aside from that, kids need to enjoy some time outdoors—a fun, healthy, out-of-the-house adventure. Camping is an awesome way to encourage them to value all the beauty and fun that nature has to offer.
Before you go, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Familiarize young legs to long-distance walking with a prolonged walk in a natural setting close to home. Develop to a half-day hike on a trail. To get them eager, tell them that these are the awesome days when they get to use their for-hiking-only shoes and sandals. Let them bring their own bag—just keep it light, though. On the following hikes, add a little more weight to their pack.
- Kids love this: pretend having a camp at home. Pitch a tent in the backyard or even inside the house. Let kids hang out in it and sleep in it overnight so they become acquainted with the new sleeping setting.
- Observe how they react. Take note of how kids react to new outdoor conditions; attune your pace and goals so the whole experience remains fun and not overly demanding. Write yourself reminders to remove mistakes on future trips.
Include the kids’ thoughts and inputs in the planning phase. Ask kids for ideas of possible stuff to do or see at your destination. Take their input seriously and put them into consideration. It will make them feel like they’re an important part of the team and not just tag-alongs.
Include other families! It can be more exciting for kids to hike with another family that has kids too. Yes, your children may get bored with you after a while!
- Take note of campfire restrictions at your destination before you leave. If campfires are not allowed, let your kids know in advance so they know what to expect. Instead, you may show them how to make Smores with your cool tiny stove. ;)
In the Backcountry…
- Choose a campsite destination not more than 2 miles from a starting point. Don’t wander off too far. If for some reason you need to go back, you won't have to go with the youngsters.
Adjust your expectations. Remember: you’re there with them to have fun, not give them a hard time. Some families try too difficult, rough-terrain backpacking trips. These can be dull and arduous for kids. If the trip is unlikable, you are potentially giving your children an undesirable impression of the outdoors. This can definitely take a while to reverse.
- Safety first! Make sure the little ones always carry a whistle (teach them to blow it if they become separated from you) and have easy access to a flashlight. For the younger ones, fasten a lanyard or a cord to both the whistle and light and secure them to one of the child's belt loops.
Take the time to…
Give them a piece of history. Some trails have historical significance or interesting stories. This info is often available in trail guides, at ranger stations or via mobile apps, and can add another element of interest and substance to your trip. Plus, they will have something to share to their friends when they go back to school!
Teach them to be responsible. Familiarize your kids with the Leave No Trace principles to help them develop into responsible citizens who care about nature and the outdoors.
- Instill in them respect for wildlife. Ask park rangers about wildlife activity in your destination. As the parent, you need to grasp any precautions necessary to safely coexist with wildlife on the trail. Teach your kids about treating wildlife with respect and caution.
I hope these tips help you hike more often and more happily with your kids!
Enjoy Your Next Family Adventure,
Daniel E. and the entire Hyke & Byke Team!
Hyke & Byke #GearThatGives