If you’re a parent who loves to hike, how do you foster that same enthusiasm in your children? One of Smugglers’ Notch Resort’s veteran hiking guides, Martha Gamble, a parent herself, offers the following suggestions.
Think like a kid, your kid! What does your son or daughter love to see or do when they are outside? Do they like waterfalls, playing in streams or swimming in a pond? Would they enjoy scrambling over rocks and jumping down? Would expansive scenery wow them, seeing mountain ranges lined up to the horizon, or looking down on their house or city? Whatever is fun for them needs to be the focus for the day. Remember, for kids, it is all about the journey, not just the goal.
Make sure your first hikes together are within their capabilities. If your child decides they only want to go a little way or play in the brook for a while, let them be the leader for the first hikes. Even if you haven’t gone far, if they are done for that day turn around so that they will remember a fun experience and want to go again. Young kids can hike for miles if they have started with smaller hikes and had a great time.
Use all the opportunities you have to help make hiking more interesting. Take a gondola or a toll road up the mountain and then explore from there, allowing your child to have the “eye candy” of hiking. If they are more athletic, scramble up a fun rocky trail and then take the gondola down. Go out with a guide who can show them different aspects of nature that will get them hooked on exploring the outdoors. Once you have stimulated their interest in hiking they will overlook things like a bit of rain or a less interesting section of trail.
Be prepared … in so many ways! Pack lunch and your child’s favorite snacks, as well as drinking water, sunscreen, bug dope, and clothes appropriate for the conditions of the day and your destination. Keep in mind that it is colder and windier at the tops of mountains and the weather can change quickly. At first, carry equipment for small children. As they get more experienced, teach them to be responsible for planning for the day and carrying their own supplies. If they choose the trip they will work harder to get to the destination, and they may enjoy carrying a backpack like mom or dad, especially if it is a hydration pack.
A bonus: hiking is a great way to get in shape for the winter snowsports season!
We welcome your comments and would love to hear what has worked for you on your family hikes!