Anyone have good advice for how to introduce toddlers to hiking without asking too much of them? I have 3 year old twins. I'm getting them outside but am trying to figure out whether to push their limits at all or just stop and chill for every rock/bug/flower/stick that catches their eye. (Makes for a very short hike.)
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
From my own experience (4 kids, 7 grandkids), I'd say make it the stop-and-chill--it should be the kids' hike, not yours, especially at that age. You want them to enjoy the experience,not be turned off hiking for life. Time and distance goals can come when they're older.
"Kids will force you to alter your sense of accomplishment and to be flexible. For many children, it's the journey that's important, not how long the journey is. They are slower and closer to the ground, and by taking the time to look at the world from their perspective, with their sense of time, wonder and their short attention span, we learn lessons for ourselves and build real foundations of a love for the outdoors with our children. For all of us who have taken young children into the woods, it is the sense of wonder and altered time that seems to be recalled most fondly."
There is also a section in this forum on "Hiking with Kids" where many of us have recounted our own experiences with our children/grandcildren.
Edited by OregonMouse (09/19/1809:28 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
OM said pretty much exactly what I was thinking, especially:
Take your time and explore.
Make it an enjoyable experience for them (get them hooked).
Also remember that every kid is different. Some kids are naturally adventurous and want to explore. Some may need a little more time and patience. Be sure and listen to them, and I bet they will come to love the outdoors and hiking. I can't stress enough how important it is to imprint positive first memories on them if you want them to keep enjoying it later in life.
The journey is more important than the destination.
As usual, I agree with OM. If you want your kids to enjoy their experience and nurture a lifelong passion in backpacking, making it enjoyable is paramount. Even with my kids today (10 & 7) I find meeting the requirement of being more than a mile from a road (common in many National Forests) to be challenging because trails are rarely straight or flat. Getting a mile away from a road usually means two miles of hiking and lots of hills.
My first trip with my eldest son (I think it is documented in the Hiking with Kids Section) was walking along a river bank until he decided we were done. Nice and flat and many interesting sights to enjoy along the way. He had a blast and I push him a bit farther now days
I also remember hiking with my son where we were wandering around looking at things (around 3-4 years old). He just kept going and going. I was really impressed with how far he was going, but the minute I said we should head back now, suddenly he was tired and his feet hurt and he needed to be carried. I said, "alright lets just explore a little bit more." Then we "explored" our way back home.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I'll check out the hiking with kids section. I'm discovering that we can't complete a loop but when it is time to head back they don't want to go that way very easily.
I need to get better at distracting them so they forget which way is which I guess!
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