I read a staggering statistic today. In a typical week, only 6 percent of children ages 9 to 13 play outside on their own and kids 8 to 18 spend an overwhelming 53 hours a week using entertainment media.
Help your children (and yourself) experience the magic of nature by heading outdoors. Waterville Valley has some great walking paths and hiking trails that are suitable for even the youngest children. With a little advance planning, you can ensure an enjoyable tramp in the mountains with your kids.
1) Choose a destination that is manageable for your children. Consider nap and meal times.
2) If the term “hiking” scares your kids (it may imply arduous miles of work to a child), call it “adventuring!”
3) Let your kids help plan your adventure. It doesn’t have to be a grand hike up a 4,000-foot mountain. It could be a walk in nearby woods, picking a spot for a picnic, visiting a river or swimming hole.
4) Bring a lightweight backpack with straps that cross your chest for good support.
5) Pack water and snacks such as trail mix, granola bars, string cheese or energy bars. I found I could entice my kids to keep going (“just a little bit further…!”) with M&M incentives along the way!
6) Pack a small first aid kit with the basics: bandages & antiseptic wipes.
7) Save room for all the treasures your children will discover and want to bring home!
8) Wear the right shoes! And bring a second pair of shoes to leave in the car and change into when you’re done hiking, since your kids will inevitably get wet or muddy!
9) Encourage your kids to invite a friend – it will be more fun for them AND you!
10) The emphasis should be on FUN! Play games. Look for treasure. Try geocaching. Have a cool objective at the end of the hike like a waterfall, river or lake. Adults appreciate views; kids, not so much.
11) Let the kids set the pace. Kids have little legs. Make frequent stops. Set short objectives – a tree, a boulder, the waterfall. Be prepared to bail. There will be a ‘next time.’
12) Generate enthusiasm in your children by sharing your own sense of wonder, excitement and appreciation for nature. There are so many treasures to search for on a hike: Critters, fallen trees, bugs, plants, roots, rocks, puddles, ferns, berries, mushrooms and more.
13) Bring a camera to chronicle your crew’s adventures!