Monday, May 27, 2013

Growing little hikers

Tips on Growing a Little Hiker

Having a crew of little hikers didn't happen by accident. I don't know that I had a set plan mapped out in my head, but I did have the vision in my head of our whole family walking through trees, climbing over boulders and helping each other across creeks and streams.  The Dad and I wanted to grow our kiddies into active kids who love being outdoors. We have had our kids on hikes at a very early age. The best way to inspire the young ones to fall in love with hiking is to simply get up and get moving. But there are other things you can do to help inspire them while on hikes and in the days in between your hikes.

1.Take Neighborhood Walks...

... and take them often! Getting the kiddies into the backyard to run, dig and play is great.  Its also great, in my humble little opinion, to walk together as a family unit. Its fun, gives the kiddies practice with distance boundaries (how far from me is too far) and it is quality time. It keeps their little feet moving, too. Getting out on a neighborhood walk helps build up your little one's endurance for a hike. A typical neighborhood walk for the mob and I is between 1.5 and 2.5 miles. That makes hiking 2, 3, and 4 miles trails possible for us.

Anyone can do it.  Start small and make it work for your little ones. If walking to the corner and back is your starting point, then great! Start there and slowly build. We will see you out on some local trails before you know it.

2. Geocaching

My little hikers uncovering a cache on a summer hike.

Geocaching is treasure hunting! What could be more fun than that!? Some folks hide geocaches which are containers holding a small sign-in booklet and sometimes small treasures (trinkets that other treasure hunters have left. If you take a trinket, you should leave a trinket). By signing up at the geocache website, you can find where caches are near you or your hiking destination, get coordinates and find some treasure! This is becoming a real favorite for my little hikers. And I think the Dad really likes the thrill of the hunt, too.  

3. Give the Kiddies Tasks

Giving the little ones a mission they will enjoy keeps them more engaged on a walk or a hike. 

  • complete a checklist of things to find
  • count the number of (squirrels, dogs, other folks, school busses, anything) we see 
  • find 5 leaves you'll want to use for art
  • name things on our walk that start with the "b" sound (or any ol' sound you wish)
  • bug catching (provided the grown up is not creeped out, of course)
  • let the kiddies choose the paths (also a great way to teach left and right)
  • be the map reader on the hike
  • GET CREATIVE! Whatever might appeal to your little ones is a good choice. 
Sometimes kids have fun just being on the walk or hike and sometimes they need a little inspiration. Keep a couple of ideas in the back of your mind to use whenever the need should arise! 

4. Take Pictures

Believe this or not, one neighborhood walk my two olders pretended they had cameras and took imaginary pictures throughout the whole walk. On another walk I allowed them each 3 pictures with my phone. We would walk and when Big Sis or Brother found something they wanted to snap a picture of, they got a turn with my cell/camera. It wasn't a big deal to me but they loved it! When we got home, I uploaded the pictures to my laptop and the future photogs got a huge kick out of studying the pictures they took. So much so, that they got kid-friendly cameras the past holidays. 

5. Extend the Fun Past the Walk or Hike

My little hikers using leaves in
Fall art project. 
It is not uncommon for us to return from a walk or a hike with treasures in tow: a giant leaf, sticks, pine cones, a locust shell.... Lots of times these things will be added to our outside collection. The kids will spend some time arranging things on the picnic table. I give the kiddies some time to do that and then show me everything on display. They feel really proud of everything on display and its a great chance for them verbalize why they found each thing to be so special. 

Occasionally we will bring some of our treasures indoors. We might pick our favorite and bring it in to draw a picture of it, paint it or do another type of art project with our finds. 

Talk about the walk or hike, write about it, draw a picture. Make sure that the little ones feel that their experience is important.


We love to hike as a family because we have FUN! We laugh, we talk, we discover new things, we share a really cool experience and we bond. Our kids seem to love it as much as we do and we want to make sure this is always a fun experience for them. We hope they are always happy to hear our plans include a hike. We think about ways to keep them motivated and engaged but lots of times we don't need to do a thing. Really, what kid doesn't want to be climbing over rocks and trees, finding new interesting creepy crawlies, seeing birds, foxes, deer, and just getting to be a part of our amazing outdoor world. 

Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you are inspired to get out there and hit the trails! I wish you and your little ones many, many happy hikes!

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