Family adventure vacations are proven tools to enhance your family relationship. Hiking with your children is simple, fun, and a great way to enhance the adventure. However, how do you prepare your family, mentally and physically, for a hiking adventure? Read on!
Do you remember how your heart raced as you gazed on your first moose? Can you recollect the first time the haunting call of a Sandhill crane resonated on the chords of your emotions? Is the picture of the graceful Trumpeter swan still imprinted on your mind? Many of us who have lived surrounded by the wild and beautiful have relished such encounters. For most of us, it is not hard to think of trips we'd still like to take, and places we'd still like to see. However, how often do we think to include our children in our explorations?
Studies have shown children under six learn best by using their senses. The great outdoors offers our children unlimited chances to do just that. And many of us have a treasure store of opportunities at our fingertips.
However, it is often easier to plan the day around our own interests or our older children's ideas than to arrange trips which include the toddlers who play around our feet. Nonetheless, there is no better time to begin sparking their appreciation for nature than before their interests are engaged by the television, the video games, and the computer games which will shortly vie heavily for their attention. Getting them young, while their minds are still curious about the wonderful world around them, is the best time to start.
According to the American Hiking Society, hiking lowers our blood pressure, strengthens our hearts, and helps us lose weight. Hiking clears our heads and relieves stress. Hiking is good for the environment, and, hiking adds to our awareness of it.
Children enjoy hiking -- especially when we start them young! They don't seem to care about mileage or destination. As one dad so aptly put it, "Have fun. Look at the world through their eyes, and it becomes new again."
Little ones are interested in the here and now, the up-close and personal. Give them the hands on, the touch and taste things. A walk is a great way to do that. Be creative. Don't stick to the park. Take them to a meadow, walk along a chattering brook, climb a small hill, meander among the trees. The options are only limited to your imagination.
When you are hiking with children, especially young ones, you become an adventurous walker. It is the journey that is important, not the length. Let them see you enjoying nature, and they will grow up thinking it is special too. Don't rush. Don't have plans to get somewhere. Just walk. And pay attention.
Get down on their level: spider webs, dew drops, a crawling bug, tossing pebbles. Little faces, close to the ground, often see things we stride over without a second thought. The feel of the grass, the smell of a flower, the taste of a rock, the joy of climbing a ‘huge' boulder, the texture of a tree's bark, the sensation of sliding down a grassy hill, or the adventure of crawling into a hole. This is what excites them.
One experienced Mom likes plopping on her belly with her children and examining a small section of ground. They count the bugs. They look at the color of the dirt. They watch the busy ants. They study the plants and grasses. They wonder at the candy wrapper left by some irresponsible soul to mar their patch of soil. Then they roll over and ponder the vastness of the sky above while they search for pictures in the clouds.
Don't forget to talk. For the youngster just learning her words, you are in a goldmine for new vocabulary. For the child using sentences, simple explanations and dialogue will add to his understanding of the world around him. Talk about safety. Talk about the dangers and value of the world they are walking through - good and bad plants, helpful and stinging bugs, trickling versus swiftly running water. And, what if I get lost?
Capture their hearts and imaginations. Show them how to love being outside; how to love seeing animals and birds; how to interpret sound and smells and textures. Teach them how to love the great outdoors.
As you head out the door, grab a simple first aid kit for those bumps and bruises. Be sure to include a child safe sun screen (at least SPF 15), and a child safe bug spray. A few other things which might add to the adventure are a magnifying glass, plastic bags (for the take home treasures - be sure to check local regulation if you are not sure what these include), snacks, water, and diapers, if needed.
Every child who becomes enamored with nature as a toddler is another brand snatched from the fire of a synthetic, asphalt, and concrete world. Every child who learns the joy of time spent in the great outdoors is another little one who will grow up filled with an appreciation for the intricacies of this masterpiece we call earth. Every child who learns to care for their world is another up and coming adult who understands their role in protecting and improving the vast resources we all enjoy.
Elk Lake Resort offers wonderful family adventure vacation hiking opportunities. And for more information on hiking safety, supplies, and how-to's, check out Good Hiker. This has to be the best site I've found ever found for hiking parents. Visit this site - and take your kids - before you head into the hills. Not only will you learn a lot about hiking, you'll learn some value about safety.