As a Montana mommy of a three-year-old, hiking and being outdoors is as natural to us as brushing our teeth. Though I can attest to the many benefits of nature, your family will only experience them if you get outdoors. And it’s never too early or late to connect with nature. We caught up with Jeff Alt, long-distance hiking dynamo and author of A Walk for Sunshine, to get some of his top tips for parents to teach their kids to love hiking. Hiking is a part of life for Alt and his family — he and his wife emerged from the church doors on their wedding day wearing backpacks, and they’ve instilled the same nature-loving values in their active kids. And so can you.
Tips for getting your family to love hiking
1. Just get off the couch
Alt suggests getting your kids interested in the great outdoors as early as possible. “Getting kids outside is more important than ever,” the outdoor enthusiast says. “TV, computer and video game addictions are replacing outdoor play time. Passive inside entertainment is contributing significantly to the national obesity epidemic! It’s time to get off the couch America! Get the kids outside!” And get them outdoors now — no matter their age. I put my son is a baby carrier within days of his birth and hit the trail. Make hiking or just walking a part of your life — it’s good for you both physically and mentally.
2. Start hiking with your children today
Here are Alt’s suggestions for hiking or walking with your young children:
- Infants and children weighing less than 15 pounds should be carried in a front body carrier or a sling.
- Children weighing 16 to 40 pounds can fit into a child carrier backpack.
- Children weighing more than 30 pounds might be ready to hike short distances and carry a little daypack.
3. Make hiking fun
If your family has fun while hiking, it will become a normal, enjoyable part of your lifestyle. Alt suggests letting your kids lead. “This helps you focus on what they’re interested in and keeps you from leaving them in your dust,” he explains. You will be pleasantly surprised what you’ll about nature through the eyes of your children.
4. Get outside every day
Take a walk with the family once a day. Walk around the block, go to the park, go to the beach, and river. Get maps and books and search out and find new places to go. See new places all the time. You can even make your outside time efficient. “Walk to the grocery store. Walk to your local restaurant for dinner and back. Walk to the library,” suggests Alt.
5. Go high tech
Instead of letting your kids passively connect to the computer, bring on the hiking gadgetry! “Turn your computer game nerds on to the adventure technology of GPS, pedometers, headlamp flashlights, and geocaching, and teach them all about how these incredible devices are being used for fun,” says Alt. “Take the kids to local orienteering course and learn how to use GPS and compass together as a family.” Plan a hiking adventure and use the Internet to learn about the wildlife you may encounter. Let technology educate and encourage your kids to embrace the great outdoors.
To learn more about Alt’s hiking adventures or to meet up with him on his current tour, visit JeffAlt.com.
More tips to connect with nature
- Jay Holcomb’s tips to enjoy nature
- Rebecca Cohen’s tips to connect with your kids in nature
- Nature apps for spring