Making hiking fun for beginners, especially children, not only enhances the experience for them but for you as well. Including activities that you know kids like allows you to become more involved in their lives and even gives you other interests to explore and come to love.
Let’s face it, none of us were born with hiking poles in hand. I didn’t go on my first hike until I was 19 when I was introduced to it by my then boyfriend and now husband of 30+ years. Back when love was young it was great just being together, so I loved every minute of it as soon as I started. Then when we had children, they were introduced to camping and tramping through National Parks at a very young age, so it became part of our family life. All five sons still hike and love getting out in nature. Introducing your children to nature enriches there lives and helps create a shared interest you can pursue together as they grow. So, making hiking a fun time is important if you want adults and children to enjoy your time together on a trail.
Below are 7 Things you can do to make hiking fun for beginners especially children.
1. Start them young and select hikes and walks that they can do. When our three oldest were 6, 5 and 4 the longest hike we took them on was roughly 3 miles round trip. This consisted of 1.5 miles down to a swimming hole and then back. The selection of the hike helped keep the boys motivated on the hike. See item 3.
2. Choose places to camp where there is interesting wildlife to see and perhaps feed. We used to camp in a National Park where there were loads of parrots that would assemble at dusk and the rangers would let the children feed them. At night the park rangers would also take the kids on possum spotting tours or a walk to find a platypus in a local stream. A lot of National Parks have organised activities for kids so do some research before you choose where to go. Check out the Youtube video below.
3. Select trails that have rock pools to swim in. The incentive to get our young kids to do that 2 Mile walk was the thought of the swim at the end. Kids generally love a swim. The incentive to do the return journey was cooking on the open fire with hot cocoa and marshmallows for dessert. Sometimes we’d make a competition to see who could get back to the camp first. First prize was lighting the fire – life’s simple pleasures for a child.
4. Play word games. During the day and on the trail, play games with them like the Alphabet game. Start with the letter ‘A’. Someone has to spot something on the hike that starts with that letter. When something starting with an ‘A’ has been spotted and called out then move onto the letter ‘B’. Continue in this way until you get through the entire alphabet. It’s a version of I Spy which you can also play on the trail. We play these games on road trips as well. It may seem a little old school, but it is a good opportunity to teach kids the names of trees and bushes, or rocks and formations and insects and animals. It’s also good for the adults on the trip as they will want to learn the names of birds, insects and other animals of interest in order to help the children on their learning journey. Take a book on the native animals and birds for the area you are hiking or camping in. A lot of larger National Parks sell these in their onsite stores. My boys used to especially love the book on dangerous creatures like snakes and spiders we used to take. In Australia it comes in very handy.
5. Let them stay up at night and look at the stars with you. You can all learn more about the heavens. If you get reception there are great apps that give you the names of the stars, planets, and constellations. Check out Star Tracker Lite App. It’s a free version and has some great music as background as well. Remember to take your battery charger pack though so you can charge up the phone for the next day.
6. Take a separate camera to your phone so as not to exhaust the charge on it and let the children take photos. If you only have one camera and a few kids let them, take turns at using it. For example, let one take the shots on the way to the rock pools and the other take the photos on the way back. The camera you take need not be expensive but make sure it is easy for them to use.
7. Geocaching is like a modern-day treasure hunt. It is a popular activity which involves searching for hidden objects by help of GPS coordinates. Like looking for Pokémon’s. In the activity the members of the hike simply grab their smartphones, get latitude and longitude coordinates and off they go. Check out how to complete a Geocache by checking out this website
Making hiking fun for beginners especially children is all about forethought and preparation. Remember by adding fun things for the newbies to do you also add another interest for yourself and let’s face it learning new things is fun for everyone.