My youngest son hates hiking. He says there’s far too much walking involved in hiking. Now, this is a city kid, mind you, who has to navigate miles of city blocks while running errands with Mom, but most of the time he has his scooter to ride on…and let’s be honest…most of the time I have one hand on the handle of the scooter pulling him along while he enjoys a relaxing ride. “Shana Aunty” bought him a Camelbak to keep him hydrated on his scooter (which we thought might help with his energy level), but now he just relaxes while being pulled on his scooter with a camelback straw in his mouth. Ahhhh….the life of luxury.
My family (other than my 5-year-old son), however, enjoys hiking and being outdoors. When we travel, we often work in day hikes, so we have had to get creative with figuring out how to motivate him to cooperate on these family hikes now that he’s too big to ride in the hiking backpack. On our most recent trip to Colorado, we figured out that it’s all about the “stuff”. Having “the right gear” keeps him occupied and excited, and interested in participating in the actual hiking. Seems ridiculous, I know, when we are trying to instill some sort of mindfulness about enjoying nature, but he IS totally my child. I, embarrassingly, do enjoy all the “stuff” as well. I figure that with time and enough exposure, he will hopefully find being in nature itself enough (without all the gear) and not head down my own personal path of shopping obsession. Ha!
On our most recent hike in Colorado with friends who are “expert family hikers”, they outfitted my son with ALL the right stuff. They gave him a compass to wear around his neck, binoculars to explore the trees and birds and mountains above, hiking poles to poke things and dig into the dirt, a laminated scat and track guide to look for signs of wildlife on the trail, and then of course, he came already outfitted in his special hiking clothes, hiking hat, hiking shoes, and his beloved Camelbak for constant hydration. He was SET. And it totally worked. It also helped that he had our friends’ 11-year-old cheering him on with marching songs, and our friends’ 15-year-old running ahead and hiding treasures along the way.
My eldest son and my husband are the exact opposite of my 5-year-old and I. Put them in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and give them a generic bottle of water and they are set for the day. They don’t want to be weighed down with ANYTHING extra and find our interest in the “stuff” quite ridiculous….they just want to go, go fast, and go far. So….my younger son and I lag behind with all our gear exploring nature at a different pace, let them do their thing, and then offer them sunscreen and bug spray and band-aids and snacks and stories of all the magic we found, when they come limping back to us.
Here is some of the gear we find useful for kids who also like “stuff” and need a bit of motivation to explore the great outdoors.
Shop Hiking Gear for Kids
Hope a lot of you also get to explore some gorgeous outdoor spaces this summer. Have you done geo-cacheing? This specific trail we did didn’t have one, but our 15-year-old friend ran ahead and made his own for us, which was a blast. Would love to hear what other strategies you guys use to motivate the reluctant hikers in your crews.