If you are racking your brains for an activity to do with the kids or grandkids then think no further… take them for a bushwalk.
Even better, establish a habit of getting them out on the trail regularly. It has a way of strengthening your bond with them and (if there’s more than one of them), it strengthens their bond with each other too.
Feeling like I’d fallen into a bit of a funk recently, I decided to put some changes in place that would improve things. The first and most successful change was a pledge to go hiking with the kids at every opportunity. For a few months now, the three of us have set off for a hike almost every weekend.
The result? I’m happier, they’re happier, and I feel like we’ve never been closer.
Being on the trail together, away from distractions like technology, creates so many opportunities to experience new places together, to have real conversations, to teach them about the world, and to work together as a team. No wonder it’s brought us closer.
Of course, there has been barriers to putting a plan like this in place, so here are a few tips.
Take your time and don’t push them too hard.
You might start by just making walking a habit in your day to day life – walk to school instead of driving if you live close enough, or just go for a walk around the block as a family on a nice evening. This will make the transition to hiking a whole lot smoother.
Once you do start hitting the trails, make sure you don’t forget you’re there to show them how much there is to love about hiking. Don’t expect them to walk too fast. You’ll take in much more of your surroundings if you take your time. I find it helps if you let them decide when to stop for a rest and a drink, within reason. They’re less likely to resist if they feel they have some control and aren’t just being dragged along.
Most importantly, don’t forget to bring along enough snacks. I’m sure you know what it’s like to be grumpy because you’re hungry or dehydrated. Imagine how much worse that is when you’re little.
“What’s the point of it anyway? It’s just walking.”
That old chestnut… I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that one. It’s not hard to see it from their angle really.
With that in mind, plan your hikes with the kids to have a purpose. It could be just that you hike to somewhere with a waterfall, a swimming hole, a cave or ruin, an incredible view, or where you’re likely to see lots of wildlife.
For younger kids, it might be worth thinking of a game to play while you walk. “I Spy” is always a good one, but if you have time to prepare bingo cards you could send them searching for specific plants or animals. You could even stop and get them to draw things from their surroundings.
Older kids might like to bring a camera along so they can learn and practice their photography skills. Setting them a challenge to capture certain objects from the bush in creative ways might be a good way to keep them engaged.
The best thing about games and photography is that they’re a great way to encourage kids to notice the finer details of the landscape, which are often the most interesting.
Never, ever, forget to bring bribes.
Whenever things get tough on a hike, bribery is key. I keep a bag of red liquorice in my backpack at all times, but anything sweet will do. Try not to hand out treats too easily or they’ll become less effective as a bribe, but on our less successful outings I’ve ended up stopping to sweeten the kids up every hundred metres or so toward the end of the day. You might not like feeding your kids sugary treats that much, but the bonus is they’ll walk off all that extra energy by the end of the day.