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Hiking with kids

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Make walking fun

There’s a commonly-held belief that kids hate walking anywhere, but the truth – thankfully – is nowhere near as depressing as you’d think. When they moan that you’re walking rather than taking the car it’s not because they have a deep yearning to see the world, Wallace Arnold-style, through a vehicle window rather than experience it under their own steam: They complain because kids live in the present moment, and any sort of journey for them is mostly about what’s at the end, not the journey itself.

Venture to the unknown

It also doesn’t help that when they do walk anywhere, it’s invariably a walk they’ve done many times before: Routine trips to school, the local high street or mall don’t invoke much interest simply because they offer nothing new, but a hiking trip will take them somewhere completely unknown.hiking with kids

However, a journey is still a journey and whilst some kids may gain some pleasure out of a family-sized 5-mile route around the countryside, most will find that a typical trail of hills, woodland, rivers and fields won’t hit the right spot with them without a significant fun factor added to the mix. So how do you spice up your family hikes to keep them interested when the novelty of new scenery has inevitably worn off? Here are a few ideas:

The correct gear

Firstly, you need to make sure they’ve got the right gear on for hiking and explain to them that they’re taking on the elements. Changing into walking boots and waterproofs and helping them pack their own rucksack will make them feel like they’re going on an epic adventure, even if you’re only visiting the local forest. They may be too small to hold an OS Explorer map but having a few safety gadgets will make them feel like James Bond or Lara Croft.

Sense of direction

Secondly, try and involve them in navigation: As many adults frequently try and fail at this, it’s not unreasonable for kids to be clueless about it, so don’t push them too hard: Finding out which way is north ought to be enough for many younger walkers, though they’ll also enjoy matching up the easier symbols like churches, pubs and farms when they see them for real on the walk.

Then it’s on to the games

Kids love to collect things and take them home, so give them each a designated box to put unusual leaves, berries and other treasure in. They can write up notes to go with each one when they get home and leave them on display in the house for a while to let everyone know where they’ve been and what they’ve done.

  • A less messy way to let them collect things is by the use of a tick list: Give them some items to tick off like birds, fish, plant and tree species and see if they can work their way through it.
  • Next up, get your cameras out: With high quality photos feasible from even the cheapest cameraphones it’s easy for kids to take endless snaps. There are dozens of amusing ideas that they’ll love: A photo of them pushing against a large tree followed by another of them standing on top of a similar tree that’s been uprooted will make them look like a superhero, whilst hanging from branches will immortalise them as Tarzan and Jane for the afternoon.
  • Basic I Spy games and its variations always go down well, too: Get them to spot something with every colour of the rainbow, and each letter of the alphabet and you’ll have a challenge that all the family can join in with.

 

Before you go bounding off into the wilderness, though, remember to be prepared and don’t try to go too far. Family walks or hiking tend to be pitched at around 5 or 6 miles at the most, and it’s always best to build up even to these lengths. Carry a decent first aid kit, wear proper boots and above all take more than enough protection for cold and wet weather. You’ll also need your phone on you, fully charged – as well as a GPS device if you’re going anywhere remote.

Get this right and your kids will develop a taste for the outdoors and healthy exercise that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, so it’s well worth the effort.

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