Hiking with Kids and Keeping Them Motivated
It can be difficult to keep children motivated when travelling by foot whether you are going 1 kilometre or 20 kilometres. If the motivation isn't there then it's painful for everyone.
1. Give your child responsibility
When doing day hikes, we usually try to bring our dog and Gaia is in charge of walking him. She takes pride in being responsible for the dog, and it’s one less thing that I have to do. For long hikes, she packs a lightweight backpack.
2. Take time to smell the flowers
Kids love mushrooms, animals and flowers. Occasionally, I will bring identifying books and we will try our hand at naming different plants. The only catch with this one is that you definitely have to find a balance. Some days Gaia wants to stop and look at every flower, which can lead to taking hours to travel one kilometer. Also, I always stress that we don't touch or pick the flora.
3. Invite Some Friends Along
Bonus points if you are friends with families who like to play outside. Works great for shorter hikes, and makes camping in the wilderness so much more fun.
This one is self explanatory. “Hangry” is already in our child’s vocabulary.
5. Play games
When our energy levels seem to be depleting and trail mix just isn't doing the trick, I throw in a game to keep us motivated. Some favourites are ninjas and princesses or sight-only scavenger hunts (we try not to pick or collect anything when hiking) . Expanded list of outdoor games will be in a future post.
6. Engage them in the packing process
Packing for overnight trips can be long and tedious (or maybe super fast if you're a practiced professional). That being said, I still let Gaia help me pack the packs, and check the gear. Besides the standard survival gear, I sometimes let Gaia pick a story to read. The last big trip we went on she suggested she bring a stuffed animal. I struggled with the idea but eventually gave in. It was the BEST decision I made for the whole trip. That little penguin came everywhere with us and was responsible for countless hours of entertainment.
7. Be patient
I can guarantee, nothing is going to go how you expect it to. Allow for flexibility in your schedule and embrace the obstacles thrown in your path.
8. Ease off
One time when on a 9 kilometer hike, we started to get a little impatient with Gaia. We had it set in our minds that each of us would carry our own weight and reach the site without complaint. By the 8th kilometer Gaia was losing her motivation so we broke our rule and carried her pack for a bit. Her attitude completely changed and she started to enjoy the hike again. The next day she put her pack back on with no complaints.
When all else fails, candy is the ultimate motivator. A box of smarties, some skittles, some chewy candies. Candy that can be divided into multiple small portions is best. Give your child landmarks to achieve and then offer them a treat.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Comment below.