This is a guest contribution from Dan Chabert
Hiking is one of those great, versatile activities because it can be a completely solitary adventure, where you cut yourself off from the annoyances and incessant notifications of our uber-connected life, yet it can also be an activity that you can partake in with others, allowing you to explore nature with a group and challenge you to see and experience the wild from others’ point of view.
If you’re a parent, you may find that your children are naturally curious about hiking, especially if they’ve grown up seeing you do it or seeing your pictures and gear. As your children grow in age, so, too can their hiking experiences with you deepen.
Perhaps contrary to your initial reactions, I think that with a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of creativity, you will find it’s actually fairly easy to incorporate your family into your hiking adventures, assuming that you have the right tools and resources.
Hiking with your family in tow can not only give you some unmatched quality time, but you can also be “super parent” momentarily and model for them how rewarding it is to be active and work hard to achieve your goals.
Below, you’ll find some of my tips about how you can gradually introduce hiking to your family and get them involved with your antics:
- When they’re really little: wear them on your hike. When your children are really little, consider literally wearing them on your hikes. There are a variety of baby carriers available these days, with many that are designed for the littlest of babies looking more like slings that you carry on your front. Naturally, you’ll want to consider the terrain that you’re hiking on when you have your littlest one in tow – it goes without saying, but safety first! – but when your wee one is little, provided you are already conditioned to handle hiking, wearing your baby on your front will allow you to both bond with your child and expose him/her to your hiking love from a very early age. Take all the necessary precautions before you begin hiking with your baby, though, such as ensuring that he/she is dressed appropriately and is within the weight parameters for a baby sling. When your children gain a little more weight, you could even wear them on your back in a contraption designed exclusively for parents to hike while wearing their kids.
- When they get a little bigger: push them in an all-terrain stroller
Depending on the type of terrain you hike, most likely there will be a stroller – typically a running stroller – that you’ll be able to use to push your child in on your hike. Just like with baby slings, though, typically running strollers have pretty specific weight and height parameters, so mind the limits as dictated by the owner’s manual. Many running strollers can handle fairly technical terrain, but use your common sense when deciding if it’s safe to push your baby in a stroller on your trek. If you have any doubts, talk to your pediatrician, or consider exploring an alternate route. A nice bonus? Pushing a stroller on a hike is a challenging workout that will make you engage your core muscles in ways that you probably otherwise wouldn’t, so it quickly becomes both an endurance and a strength workout.
- When they grow up just a little more: take them on short hikes
As your children grow up and become better adept at their motor skills (such as walking and running), consider actually hiking alongside them on short and easily-traversable jaunts. Don’t worry about logging an impressive amount of mileage or time or mastering a super-technical trail system; instead, take the hike slowly with your children, pointing out to them the aspects of the hike that you most enjoy, are curious about, and the like, and see what your children point out to you. You may be surprised at the things your children notice on the hike that you’ve never paid any attention to! Children have a fantastic way of observing the world.
- When they’re older: introduce geocaching
Geocaching has become increasingly popular over the last few years, and as your children grow up and master reading (and map-reading), geocaching could become a way for them to continue to be interested in hiking. Geocaching also brings with it an added element of adventure and competition, which might help keep your children engaged and interested in hiking with you. Some parks and preserves even host their own geocaching events, and participating in such an activity with your children could be especially meaningful (and fun!) for both of you.
- When they’re young adults: allow them to help plan the hikes. If your children are still interested in hiking with you as they continue to age into the pubescent or pre-pubescent years, consider giving them the additional responsibility of planning out some family hikes. Perhaps they could pick the park/destination, calculate how much daily mileage or elevation to conquer, or any number of other elements; what matters most here is giving your children the ability to buy-into the hiking adventure by giving them opportunity for ownership. Who knows? You may find that your children create a family hiking adventure unlike anything you would have ever planned!
Hiking is an activity whose growth and depth can coincide with your children’s development, and as I’ve explained above, there are many ways that you can incorporate hiking into various stages of your children’s maturity and physical development. The opportunities really are unlimited here.
Children often copy their parents’ habits and replicate them with such sheer, unbridled joy, and I think hiking is no exception. Hiking with your children – at whatever age or stage of their development – can be very memorable for both of you, and if nothing else, exposing your children to your hiking hobby surely will at least pique their interest and plant the seed for them to explore hiking later in their own lives.
About The Guest Blogger
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com and he has been featured on runnerblogs all over the world.