The Art of Hiking with Children

Hiking with anyone ages 18 months (give or take a few months) to 8 or 9 years old can be a lesson both in cultivating patience, and in appreciating the journey. As adults we often slip into the mode of destination hiking, cruising the trails with an end result in mind, often passing right by a multitude of universes no self respecting child would dare pass by without a gander.  This whole way of being comes into contention when you bring any human who has been here less than a decade. Here are some tips to make the most out of a hike with those under the age of 10:

  • Don’t get hung up on getting a certain distance. Most children still retain at least some of their natural curiosity and will only benefit from getting a chance to engage it and explore the natural world without being constantly pressured to keep moving.
  • Expect to stop for every lizard on the trail (See above point). Don’t be surprised at how many lizards actually exist in said hiking area.
  • Expect to stop to pick up every stick, pine cone, rock, leaf, and rolly polly on the trail (Again see point #1)

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  • Bring snacks and a water bottle. While there seems to be an endless push to leave no child hungry in the world of school functions and organized sports, taking a page out of this book may save you from carrying a kicking screaming toddler back to the car, and may allow you an extra hour to travel .1 miles while collecting more sticks than you thought existed on the planet.
  • Take breaks periodically if you’ve actually managed to travel out of sight of the car. When kids feel they are not participating in a forced march they tend to want to keep going.

In the end, ‘hiking’ may end up being a loosely used term to describe the day’s activities, however the benefit of free exploration reminds us that we are never too old to appreciate the small wonders of the world.

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