Because we live in a digital world, getting outside to enjoy nature has never been more important, especially if you’re a family with young teenagers!
Hiking with your kids is such a wonderful way to have adventures away from the sofa and into the WiFi-free world of the outdoors, not to mention an excellent way to teach children to be self-reliant and resourceful, and work off excess calories.
Here are four ways to make your next family hiking holiday safer, more enjoyable and keep everyone away from those digital screens.
Put the kids in charge of navigation
Preparing for the hike is as important as walking it, and it can be fun, too, if you let the kids take charge – with a little supervision!
Show them some possible routes and after they’ve chosen the one you’ll take, when you’re out on the hike you can let them carry the map or use the GPS to help lead the way. Knowing how to read maps and use GPS is an important life skill which could turn out to be lifesaving one day, and this is a great way to get in a few practice runs. It also teaches them that if they get lost, there’s always a way to find your way home by using the sun or other natural elements to guide them.
Adapt the hike to your kids’ abilities
Nobody wants to get home completely exhausted, and some less fit children or older people can find long distances or a lot of uphill terrain more tiring. A good rule of thumb is to hike well under ten kilometres if you have children aged ten or under – in fact, if you’ve never hiked before with the kids, start with an easy route, and distance, you can always build on it next time. If children become upset or tired, you won’t have the car to drive them home in.
Preparation is everything
You’re not ascending Mount Kilimanjaro but you still want to be prepared. Getting hungry, cold or thirsty during a hike is a no-no, it leads to premature tiredness. What you need is fluids and fuel – and adequate clothing. Don’t forget items for blisters, scraped knees, anti-inflammatories or ointment for stings and bites. The more prepared you are, the less you’ll worry about along the way. On the clothing front, remember layers are best. Temperatures can drop suddenly at sunset, even if it was warm during the day, so take things you can “add and subtract” to keep the family comfortable. Rain gear, too, if there’s a chance of showers. And protein/carb mix snacks like fruit and nuts will keep energy levels up – pop in a few bars of chocolate, too.
Keep things interesting
Routes through forests that open on to sea views, paths that lead to rock pools…secret caves and coastal dunes…if you’re in an area of outstanding natural beauty you’re in for a treat. If you’re feeling brave and the kids are older, why not try a (partial) night hike, perhaps covering the last kilometre in the dark to see if you can spot any nocturnal wildlife. Night walks, obviously, are done best by the light of a full moon.
Last but not least, if you have very young children, a coastal walk might be best. If they get bored or run out of steam you can always stop and build sandcastles or look for shells, before heading home for a cosy, well earned supper.