Things have changed, yes, but that’s why you should not give up everything you like? You have to change the way you do things. After all, having a child does not mean that the adventure is over, but quite the opposite, the adventure has only just begun.
Discovering the mountain by the hand of your children, through the eyes of a child, is an experience as much or more rewarding than crowning any mountain in the world, and we can also practice it from the beginning.
When can you start hiking with a child?
From a very young age, we can go hiking so that both the baby and the parents begin to get used to the different stimuli that the natural environment offers us.
First, with the ergonomic backpacks, always on soft walks without great pretensions, and later with baby carrier backpacks that allow us to move along the mountain trails comfortably.
As the child grows older, almost without realizing it, he or she will begin to walk, run, and even climb everywhere. After a first year in which the child is totally dependent on you, he/she begins to be freer. They are small enough to be ported and large enough to walk something.
They get excited with almost anything: sticks, stones, or small animals, and you can spend hours watching an insect or digging a hole. It is the perfect time to foster your natural curiosity and discover a nature that has always been there, but that is revealed to us through the eyes of children.
From the age of 3, a new phase begins as intense as it is gratifying. The child begins to be totally autonomous. You can no longer behave, and his curiosity accentuates even more.
The logistics will be reduced to the maximum, and your backpack will weigh 10 kilos less, but instead, the challenges do not diminish. Hiking with children from 3 years of age requires more than ever that parents or educators get involved to ensure that the adventure in nature remains a success, and both parents and children can continue to evolve and enjoy family hiking.
Here are some tricks and tips, also included in the excursion guides with children, to make hiking with children a success:
Things you should do
Give children responsibility.
From 3 years old, it is a good idea to start carrying your own backpack. At the beginning with little weight, a sandwich or a juice, for little by little, and as they get older, fill it up.
Let them participate in the decisions, allow them to see the map, decide which path to take or look for the different landmarks or signs of the route will foster their self-esteem and independence, and make them feel part of the group.
Get them to enjoy the route from the first minute.
We usually make a big mistake when traveling with children, and it is to understand the trip as if it were the adult. We (adults) often do trekking with an end (for example, see a landscape, the lake at the end of the journey or enjoy a waterfall), but with children, we cannot go with that intention; since surely the experience for them is not so positive.
The hiking route must be an adventure from the beginning and not only at the end. That means the destination is not important. To achieve this, many things can be done: from playing along the way (the typical “I see I see” game can be useful) or you can also try to hear what the birds say.
You can invent a tune with what they say, for example. And we also recommend that you choose the first walk that is not very complicated. Although the children are full of energy if we take them downhills and rocky roads, they will surely get tired sooner than expected.
Do not hurry.
Go at your own pace. Everything fascinates them, and you will enjoy seeing the world through their eyes. You will soon realize that this is one of the most magical parts of having children.
Make big stops for them to play.
Study the map and try to find places that can be fun and safe for children to play. The route is the excuse for them to be in contact with the natural environment. At the stops, playing and browsing, the children will have fun and learning lessons that only nature can teach.
Surprise your child.
What does a child usually think of his father or mother? That he is an expert in everything that he is the best and that he is a superhero. So, we suggest you learn from home with things you can find during the walk.
For example, study the fauna and flora to tell you about the plants that are around and tell you what they are for (natural remedies) or do some research on the animals that are hidden very close to you. It can be exciting for him to think that he can meet someone along the way.
Do not leave anything for improvisation.
Analyze the route you are going to make, proposing routes according to the age and ability of the child, study possible ways to shorten the path if necessary, fully charge the mobile phone, check the weather the previous days, always carry a first aid kit with you or research online information about people who have made the route before you.
Once you have all the information … start improvising.
If the children are small, you can tell them fantasy stories: in this forest through which you go through goblins and fairies, and maybe you see some, that little house that is seen in the distance is that of the grandmother of Little Red Riding Hood, in that cave there hid a treasure a long time ago.
It would be best if you tried to extend the story as much as possible. If they are older, you can tell interesting things about the route, curiosities about the species of plants or animals that you find.
You can make a small notebook to identify the plants that you will find (as you will not know exactly you can make a general notebook and from there go searching each route: you will look for flowers, leaves, trees …)
Things you should not do
Look at the mountain with adult eyes.
Imagination is the key piece in the learning of the little ones. If we want the experience to be positive, and the child wants to repeat again, we cannot be mere spectators of his games and fantasies. The role of parents is essential to make the experience a success. Look at the details, imagine, create stories, get your hands dirty, play, and ultimately have fun like a child.
Our mood, both positively and negatively, will have a clear reflection on children. If we are restless, tired, or cranky, we will transmit it by accentuating the problem. On the other hand, if we are happy and confident, the child will move forward with greater ease. If the child does not want to move forward, do not lose your temper, you will only be making things worse. With security, good humor, and some imagination, everything will be better.
Hiking with babies
If you are a hiking lover and you have a baby, you probably want it to enjoy the environment. Besides, it is very good for them and for their immune system.
If your little baby is between 0 and 12 months, it will be necessary to go with a baby carrier. It is essential to have one to be able to move with him without difficulties. And it will also be crucial that you go with adequate footwear and a moderate pace to avoid suffering any mishap on the route.
Hiking with young children (1-4 years old)
They are perfect years since in that age group they want to walk the most. They are developing that skill and want to put it into practice.
You can make the route with a cart or a leash to help you on your way (in case you get tired), or you can choose to make a short route.
Remember to take a pair of extra socks since the puddles usually attract a lot of attention and prepare a backpack for yourself. As you know, they like to have their things and bring their own belongings.
Hiking with children (5-12 years old)
That age is much simpler when hiking, but we recommend that you set specific rules. For example: that they should not go far and always be in sight of dad and mom or that they can walk a large piece and then stop to rest until the family becomes visible to them again.
We hope that with some of the tips we gave you will help you to have an amazing hiking experience with your children.
Of course, you know your little one better than anyone, and you can know what else can be essential for him. Let yourself be guided by your maternal or paternal instinct.
In case you are not an experienced hiker by yourself, we also have a guide for beginners here.