On Saturday night, we (the 3 year old and myself) joined several other families for a night hike led by NatureBridge. We had never actually been on an organized hike (although stay tuned for a round up of several different organizations in the Bay Area that offer organized hikes for families!) so it was a new experience. Here’s the general review:
- The evening started out with a campfire & s’mores. I was worried that this would crush the motivation to hike for the kiddo, because hey– we already had the sugar! However, this also meant that when the hike was done, there was no need to corral everyone into a group again.
- Campfire songs & s’mores are hard to beat. They had a great s’mores system, with enough marshmallow roasters that there was no backup, which is impressive. Everyone had at least one s’more, and there was apparently enough for seconds, but since my kid started singing and dancing like she was auditioning for America’s Got Talent after the first, one s’more was enough. I’m also fairly convinced that we’d all do better if we did more singing in groups, so campfire songs are great with me.
- We split into two groups to hike (our group had about 15 people in it, which did not seem overwhelming), and each hike was led by a naturalist. Our naturalist is a preschool teacher by day, and taught our group about adaptations nocturnal animals need before we set off on our hike.
- We “hiked” down to Rodeo beach and played a couple of great animal-learning games (one on echolocation and one on using your hearing in the dark) that were probably ideal for kids somewhere between the ages of 5-10. I had been worried though, that the hike (which was supposed to be no more than 2 miles) was going to be long for the 3 year old, who can certainly hike that distance, but, as is fairly normal for preschoolers, is also fickle about when she wants to hike. However, the hike was more of a 1/4 mile stroll, so it was fine. Also, she’ll hike a lot more if other kids are hiking, too.
All in all, it was a lovely night. I would have been quite content with more hiking, but there was very little down time, once the campfire got started. I think this is probably an ideal event for kids somewhere between 5-10.
However, I will say this– I thought most of the learning was going over my three year old’s head, but in the car today, she asked me to tell her more about the noises bats make and how they get around, so she was clearly listening to the information about echolocation. So maybe it’s fine for the 3-4 year old set, too. I also believe that night hikes are great for teaching that the night does not need to be a scary place. My daughter was a little worried about hiking in the dark before we actually got started, but once we started hiking with everyone, she was happy as a clam and clearly not scared at all. She was also sad when we were getting into our car– she wanted to keep going with everyone!
Naturebridge has once-a-month family night hikes from January through at least May. The January and February hikes promise an exploration of bioluminescent plankton– apparently they come up on to the shore!! (The adults in our family went on a bioluminescence kayak last June, and it was pretty much one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.)