You were an intrepid hiker BK (before kids) but now, the diapers, messy food and added chaos has removed and reduced it from your activity list. This question seems to come up a lot, so SBM has taken it on and offered some new ways to introduce your family to hiking with kids.
Q: My husband and I hike a lot but have not yet taken our son with us as he is only four and we fear the 1/2 way through, “Pick me up!”. We go on small hikes with him when we go camping. I was looking to find out when you started out your boys doing real hikes, how far they actually make it when they are small. Any advice on what to expect?
A: We started taking the kids with us very young – before they could walk, and once they were walking, we would take them out of the backpack and let them run up the trail until they tired out. I have seen the first mile of a LOT of our trails around here for that reason. But my advice would include the following:
As for us, last summer (my boys were four and eight) we did 3 solid days of hiking from 4 trail heads and over 10 miles of trails. Their longest hike was 5 miles round trip and 2400 feet elevation gain. That amazed me. I thought for sure I’d carry someone, but they made it. They each had a good friend with them and chatted and explored the whole way. Add excitement by pointing out things that they would otherwise miss (history, geology, nature, etc).
I find that if they are doing well, I don’t interrupt. Kids are kind of natural in nature if you give them the chance. Let him get dirty. Find out what he likes about hiking and encourage that, whether it’s running or talking or looking at all the trees, grass, leaves, bugs or listening to birds.
My 9 year old is determined to go backpacking with me this summer, and I use that as encouragement to “train”. Do it often and make it fun.
Hope that helps!