Handy Techniques for the Great Outdoors
By Pam Bevins
When I want to do some serious hiking; I mean pushing myself to go at a faster pace, scrambling up mountainsides, down & back up over rolling hills, climbing over & navigating around fallen trees, taking another step every time my leg muscles scream for me to stop; I make sure I’m not taking young children along with me. There’s hiking and then there’s hiking. Most of you who enjoy a rigorous pace of hiking & backpacking know what I mean. But there’s another side to hiking, a side which though is a bit more laid back, can be fun & fulfilling just the same. It’s hiking with children. This article is meant to give just some pointers on hiking with children, and doesn’t cover every important aspect of this enjoyable activity. These are just some suggestions when bringing children out for a day hike.
Before going out, make sure you check the weather report & plan for the temperature. If it’s a bit chilly out, make sure that each child is dressed accordingly. Wearing several layers, hats & gloves if needed, will help them enjoy it more if they’re warm enough.
Look at a map to determine a loop hike to take, or choose a simple there-and-back route.
Bring plenty of water & snacks. Nothing kills a good time or activity like a hungry, growling stomach.
Let the age level of the children dictate the terrain you’ll be hiking. Be sure to have some ups & downs, but nothing to strenuous. Most children love a challenge, at least to a certain degree, and a hill with some rocks & trees to grab hold of as they climb upwards can be fun. It’s been my experience that some children enjoy the climbs the best, while some others love going downhill.
Have a destination in mind, as well as a half-way point. Children are goal-oriented, believe it or not, and look forward to reaching an appointed objective or destination. Set a time when you want to stop for an extended rest. This can be for a picnic or just hanging out & taking some pictures of everyone. Bring a favorite food or beverage of theirs that can only be had upon reaching the mid-point. Once the half-way point is reached, a feeling of satisfaction will fill their hearts as food fills their bellies. After a rest, the next goal will be to get back.
If possible, have the children bring along a friend. Of course the number of friends is optional and, depending on how many are going, you may not want each child to bring a friend. This can cause the group to grow to be too large to control.
If available, bring a map of the area you’re hiking, and refer to it from time to time. Maps have always interested me, and although they may not understand every aspect of the map, it’s a good introduction for them to learning to read a map. Looking at a map and understanding where you are in relation to the grid gives an altogether different perspective to the hike.
If you or another adult knows anything about plants & trees or animals & their markings, make a point of sharing this knowledge with the children. Ask them what they know about these things, as children always enjoy being asked to share what they know with adults.
Teach children to be aware of their surroundings. Tell them to be observant of the landscape around them, natural landmarks & the trail conditions as well. These are skills that if learned & practiced will follow them all their lives, even influencing them in more far-reaching areas.
finally, have an end goal in mind. Take them all out to dinner at their favorite restaurant or for ice cream. Associate other enjoyable activities with hiking.
This has been just a brief collection of suggestions when it comes to bringing children hiking. We all know that children are the future, the future of everything! One step in making sure that our trails of today are secure & protected for the future is by teaching children the importance of those trails & in being outdoors. Children must learn the importance of nature. Get out & hike, but next time, bring along some children.