7 Reasons to Hike with Kids
Do you need to be convinced that you too can go outdoors as a family? Are you nervous about trying? Well, my guest blogger, Beata of Family That Hikes outlines below, her 7 reasons to hike with kids. Over to you Beata!!
About Beata and ‘Family That Hikes’
We are a family of four (including two teens), who, over the years, have enjoyed many hiking adventures together. Our goal is to use our own experience as well as that of other hiking families, to promote outdoor activities to all families out there. We noticed that for the first time in human history many children are being brought up away from nature. This is a sad and highly disturbing trend that we think leads nowhere. It worries us to see how many parents shifted their own parental responsibilities to educators, media, doctors and gaming industries. Many kids are lifeless, bored and heavily dependent on easy entertainment. Knowing the healing powers of nature, we wish to inspire families to spend more time together outdoors. We strongly believe that people who experience communion with nature are happier, healthier, stronger and have more energy. And this is what we wish for all the families out there.
There is this girl in my office who has a great family adventure story to tell after every weekend. I like to talk to her because she’s bursting with energy and extremely optimistic. She and her husband take their kids for excruciating hiking trips, but she’s so relaxed about it, as if it wasn’t anything extraordinary. Sometimes she says how hard it was and how happy they were, all in one sentence. To me, it’s kind of a fantasy really. Firstly, how can you force your family to go up a steep hill and feel happy at the same time? Secondly, they surely must have hiked a lot before they had kids, and their kids must be so much stronger than mine. If I had the kind of experience they have, maybe I could give it a try, but to be honest, it doesn’t sound like my league at all…
Not my league… Or is it?
‘Not my league’ – have you ever thought that yourself? This is just one of the many reasons we hear, when we mention hiking to people who have never done it before. And there is an endless list of other stories, people tell to rob themselves, and their families from the pleasures of communing with nature. Some say its too hard, others complain they don’t have the equipment, or their kids are too small. There are those, who think it’s dangerous, and quite a few, who think it would be too boring. But deep in our hearts we all feel that we do belong in nature, that we wish we tried, and that our children experienced it with us. Only, preferably, some other time, when they grow older, and when it’s a bit more convenient, the weather is better, and basically when the whole universe aligns for it to happen. But will it?
We, Family That Hikes, have been on both sides. We listened in awe to stories of our friends, hiking in the mountains with their kids. We’ve passed by happy parents carrying their smiling kids on their backs on hikes we were wrecked doing on our own. But we’ve also talked to a lot of people, who said, they would love to try what we do. That they would like to show their kids the sense of achievement you can only get from standing on top of a mountain. That they would like to be more adventurous, and maybe teach their kids to have fun in nature, and find their strengths there.
We would like to try and convince you to take your family on a long and beautiful hike, that your kids will learn from, and treasure in their memories for ever:) Here are a few reasons why:
1. Get to know nature, we naturally belong to it.
Nature is where we come from, it’s our mother. All our senses are created just to exist and coexist in it. Therefore, taking our kids for a hike, is like bringing them back home. Here, they can balance on fallen trees, climb rocks, run wild, wet their feet in streams, and get healthy tired (the kind of tiredness your body needs to get stronger). After a few trips you will certainly notice your kids faces not being so pale anymore, their muscles getting stronger and their attitudes more mature. And you, yourself, will start missing the fresh air, the deep breathing that comes with going up the hill, that fills your deepest cells with oxygen, and the companion of your family. Because, in nature, there are no long term distractions. Nobody watches a tree for 2 hours, or plays with rocks for 4! Nature really does bring us together.
2. Nature brings the best in us.
While on a hike, you naturally become your better self. The moment you get out of the car, and take a deep breath, your adventure starts, and you want to enjoy every minute of it! Suddenly you no longer care how you look, what you wear, and what brand your backpack is. All that matters, is how your body experiences the surroundings with all your senses. You now have time to stop whenever you want, sniff flowers, enjoy the views, observe wild life, and start to feel like you are part of it. The truly euphoric state of hiking is where you don’t feel any difference between you, and what surrounds you. You feel like part of all creation. I love how Cheryl Strayed said it in the Wild: “I was a pebble, I was a leaf, I was the jagged branch of a tree. I was nothing to them and they were everything to me.” Understanding, that you belong on the Earth, that you have a right to be here, and so do your children, is one of the most beautiful things you can learn from hiking.
3. Hiking teaches us perseverance.
Another lesson that I myself, and one of my sons in particular, learnt from hiking, was perseverance. I remember admitting to my aunt once, that mountains taught me something about myself. I could go far and try really hard, but I was always afraid of getting to the top. For the first 10 years of my hikes in the mountains, I would stay a few minutes from the top, paralyzed with the freight of heights. But there came the time when I said enough. I forced myself to go to the most steep mountain in the range, and promised to reach the top that time. It was the steepest climb I’ve ever done with no support (ropes or chains). The sense of achievement I got from it was unbelievable. I still remember it, whenever I have a difficult task ahead of me. As for my son, he got bored and really tired while hiking. Every time he reached his lowest, I would walk beside him telling him how important it was not to give up, and how strong he would be, if he won that fight. He climbed the highest mountain of Ireland twice and since then, he simply knows there is no mountain or no climbing challenge, that he couldn’t do. In nature, success cannot be earned easily, but when you get it, it is precious, and you treasure it for your lifetime!
4. Use hiking to learn basic survival skills.
The question is, do you want your kids to learn how to use a fire starter from you, or from their peers? Would you rather they started their first fire behind your neighbors’ house or in some safe environment? Would you like them to try wild berries encouraged by a friend? Do you want them to touch a knife first when they are in their twenties? Well, you have a choice. These skills they will learn anyway, but the thing is, you want to be there, when they do it for the first time. You want to explain to them, how it is important to look out for the wind, how easily dry grass burns, how you don’t try forest fruit that you don’t know, and how to sharpen a stick without hurting yourself. Of course, you can explain it all at home! But the thing is, the lesson only sinks in, when you actually need a good fire to make tea, collect berries for dessert, and sharpen a stick to support your tent. Otherwise, these are just empty words, that have no meaning, and carry no weight. Do use hiking as an excuse to teach. Many of us seem to forget that kids are ours, and what they know, is what we teach them. Yes, school plays some part in it, but it is us, parents, who take responsibility of preparing our children for adulthood!
5. Hiking teaches the real sense of achievement.
When kids are playing online games, we know, it is because they are quickly and often rewarded for their ‘achievements’. Everybody likes to be rewarded, but empty rewards for empty achievements are promoting the growth of lazy and unhappy individuals, with no lust for life. I once signed my boys up for archery. They were spending long hours practicing their shooting skills in the winter evenings, after school. Success came slowly and was not easy to repeat. One day, they came home saying that their friend had done archery too, and said it was really easy, and he was great at it. As it turned out later, he meant the archery game online… Maybe it’s just me, but I am scared for a society, that is not prepared to actually do difficult things, learn, try, experiment, fail and try again. As James Allen said: “In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result.” I strongly believe hiking teaches the great taste of success, which, to be fully appreciated, needs to be preceded by some proper effort.
6. Hiking gives you unplugged time with no distractions.
Have you ever had hard time calling your kids for dinner, because if they exited their game, the game would ban them for hours? It happened to us too many times. To they point where, oops, the modem got turned off by a disruption of electricity service during our meal times… It’s possible, right? So it is not only us teaching our children the importance of shared meals, it is a much bigger fight against all huge gaming companies, that do whatever they can, to keep our own children literary glued to their games. Every family deserves time off such disruptions. When we went to walk 108 miles (175km) together, we got our family back for 8 days. Of course there was wifi in the evenings, but during the day, we were looking at each other while talking, eating together, laughing, sharing pains and joys, listening to music and having so much fun, like you always do, when you are brave enough to unplug. Hiking could be a chance for your family to start listening to each other, communicating your feelings and sharing your thoughts. This is the environment, where people open up and enjoy being with each other. Little talks grow into long and important conversations when you walk side by side:)
7. Hiking is exploring.
It is a quite common knowledge that journeys educate. Only, when we say ‘journeys’ we usually mean going to some distant places, that cost a lot and happen rarely. This is unless, of course, you start to call and view all your trips as journeys, and make a bit of an effort to squeeze the best out of them. If you are planning a hike in the nearby nature reserve, tell your kids, it’s going to be a great adventure. Read about the wildlife there, get to know some names of plants, and try to spot them on the way. Try to find a new destination for every hike. Explore the region you live in. You will be surprised how many nice places you’ve never even heard about. Engage your kids in ranking the places you visit. Soon, they will know what they like best, and your trips will be even more joyous. Our boys quickly realized they don’t enjoy flat walks, and this was a great reference for us while picking our next hikes. Hiking is an adventure, it’s always slightly unpredictable, on many occasions it’s surprising, but it is always fulfilling and worthy.
I’ve never been on a hike that meant nothing to me;)
If you enjoyed this post, check out Beata’s other posts on her blog www.FamilyThatHikes.com, or if you’re already convinced about the merits of hiking at home, but want explore abroad, check out my tips on The Alps (or any mountain range) with Children.