Hiking with your child provides ample opportunity to connect. Spending time together outdoors in a natural setting, with limited distractions (think no TV, no video games, no toys) allows for critical parent/child one-on-one time. It's that alone time where you relate to one another that nurtures this special relationship between you and them.
This is the number one way to bond with your child. Each time I take one of my girls hiking I learn something new about them and if your kids are anything like mine, they LOVE to talk. As the conversation flows between us I appreciate this time spent with them.
If you are uncomfortable talking with your children or not sure where to start use the following strategies:
- Ask questions — many children love to be asked questions and this is a wonderful way to learn something you may not know about your child. Ask about their day at school. Ask their favorite color or the theme of the book they are currently reading.
- Listen — two-way communication doesn't happen unless you actively listen. Put down the cell phone and map and focus on what your child is telling you. Hear what they have to say and respond enthusiastically.
- Be Present — don't think about your to-do list and don't think about work. DO think about your child and focus on what she has to say.
All kids love to play. It's what they do and they love when you participate in that play with them. Creative play ideas are unlimited and you only need to think like a kid and use your imagination. Follow your child's lead.
A few play ideas on the trail
- Nature scavenger hunts
- I spy game
- Would you rather game
- Follow the leader
- Simon Says
- Use the natural elements to play. Climb trees, wade in a stream, and skip rocks in a lake.
Spending time with your child on the trail leaves room to teach them many things. The undivided attention you're giving your child leaves a fantastic opportunity to teach them what you know. Keep the lessons simple, fun, and age-appropriate.
A few teaching ideas:
- Leave no trace principles
- Knot tying
- Bird watching and identification
- Poison oak identification
- Outdoor survival skills
- Emergency preparedness
- Tell them a local lore story
- Nature journal
- Take turns snapping nature photos
Give you child a small gift on your hike
A thoughtful gift from you to your child is a nice gesture to help create a special day. Don't worry about spending money, because it's the thought that counts. Give them something from your heart.
- A friendship bracelet
- A thoughtful handwritten note
- A small candy treat
- Turn your day hike into a full day of fun. Pack a picnic lunch to eat along the way or hike and then swim at your destination. After the hike take your kids to get ice cream or another treat and end the hike on a high note.
- Each hike is a special memory in itself. Hopefully, you and your children will remember each and every one, but that is not always realistic. You can help by talking about your hike on the drive home and asking your child about their favorite part of the day.
- Soon after the hike, journal or draw a picture about your day together. If your child is too young to write have them dictate while you write their story down on their paper. Then place the pictures in a notebook or binder to refer to for years to come.
Create and Document New Memories
Being in nature without everyday distractions will likely allow for relationship nurturing of the best kind. Talk, talk, and talk some more with your kiddos and listen to what they have to say. Play with them and teach them new things. Better yet, teach them new things WHILE you play, then it won't feel like work. Personalize the day on the trail by picking a memorable location or gifting a token of your love and after your hike make sure to discuss the day's events and document them to reminiscence down the road. Lastly, have fun. Have fun when you talk. Have fun when you teach. Have fun when you hike. Have fun and bond with your child on the trail.
-Traci Lehman is an IT Analyst by trade and when she's not in the office she shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply. Based in Southern California, Traci hopes to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close.