The great outdoors is one of the most valuable settings for experiential learning. If you’re fortunate enough to live near hiking trails or the countryside, hiking with your kids is a great way to combine exercise, relaxation and learning. To make it enjoyable for everyone, address physical comfort before heading out. You’ll be able to enhance your hikes with short learning activities based on your surroundings and were appropriate even bring back bits from nature for later study.
Tailor the Hike to Your Kids
Even if you’re an avid hiker yourself, your kids will resist starting out on a miles-long hike over rough terrain. If they end up bored and exhausted after the first trip, you may permanently ruin their interest in hiking, so start small. Even a mile of walking in the woods offers plenty of learning opportunities. As your kids become stronger and more used to hiking, you can lengthen the journey and tackle more difficult paths.
Proper Shoes & Clothing
Your kids don’t need high-end hiking gear or professional-grade shoes when they start hiking. Still, they do need comfortable, appropriate footwear and clothing. Lightweight, breathable clothing they can layer easily is best. They can shed layers or add them on when chilled. Stash some dry clothes and socks in your backpack or the car for unexpected problems like falling into a stream or puddle.
A sturdy pair of hiking boots is also crucial to support their ankles and provide traction and protection on uneven ground. Take the time to have them try on a few different pairs of shoes and break them in slowly. Shoes that fit well and adequately support the ankles and arches can prevent long-term damage like bunions or other problems that can lead to problems later in life. (If your children do start to exhibit foot pain or discomfort, be sure to consult with a podiatrist or visit someplace like northwestsurgerycenter.com for an evaluation).
Have Activities Planned
Relaxing in nature is lovely, but kids can get bored quickly. Plan ahead for activities that encourage engagement with their surroundings. Have them look for specific plants, insects, or birds. Ask them to identify types of mushrooms. There are endless possibilities, and inexpensive guidebooks to local plants and animals can be easily tucked into a backpack.
Encourage your kids to explore but keep safety in mind. Don’t let them stray out of sight or too far from the trail. Taking a camera along is a great way to encourage your children’s artistic bent. They can take photos of whatever they find interesting to study and research later or use as a starting point for artwork.
Take Food and Beverages
Be sure you take plenty of water and some healthy foods. Encourage frequent breaks for water to prevent dehydration and stop for a picnic lunch or snack break about halfway through your trip. This gives your kids time to rest, refuel, and enjoy their surroundings.
Family hikes are an excellent way to keep your kids active and educated in a fun, relaxing atmosphere. As they grow, your children will discover the joys of the outdoors and take their love of nature into their adult lives.