Spring has arrived in my part of the world – sorry to those of you who still wake up to snow. One activity my husband and I really enjoy during this time of year is hiking. We’re not the extreme backpack-trekking-through-forests-and-conquering-mountains types. Though we like being out in nature and it’s something we want our kids to enjoy as well. As a family we have always lived in large Asian cities. You know the place where grass is a commodity that can’t be walked on and areas that deem nature are precious treasures.
The Ins and Outs of Hiking with Kids While Living in the City
Maybe you are like us with a desire to get your kids out, but the reality is you are surrounded by grey concrete structures. Finding places to hike might be difficult, but not impossible.
Hikes don’t necessarily need to be on trails, especially for young children. When my son was a toddler we lived in China. There were no trails nearby, so I’d take him on hikes around our housing complex. I started calling them nature walks. Maybe you don’t live in a housing complex. What about a park? How about a university campus? Maybe just a patch of grass on a quieter street? The idea is to get out and let your kids explore nature.
I think this is one of the keys to living in large cities; to be intentional in getting the kids out in nature. Plan specific days of the week (or month) to take them to places that lend to exploring nature. I know in Germany they have nature clubs where young children walk in the woods every week. This is through an organization with teachers. So, this may not be an option in your area, but think about starting your own nature club and invite other parents to join you.
One thing we’ve learned having family all over the world is that not every country has the same ideas about hiking. For instance, most Asian countries will have steps, lots of steps leading up to the top of the mountain. While in other parts of the world there may only be dirt paths. Young kids tend to follow your lead – and if you enjoy it no matter the path, then they will to. Which leads to the next thought…
Yes, you need to be flexible and know the limits of your family. My daughter has some special needs. There was a time when we gave up hikes in the mountains as a family. My husband would take the other two, but Jie Jie just couldn’t do it and she was too big for a backpack carrier. Now, she is able to climb some paths, but it usually requires both my husband and I to help her get to the top. The other day, though, I decided to take the girls out on my own. The hike was not too difficult, but has quite a few stairs. I had hoped that we could make it to the top – but we didn’t. Half way up, Jie Jie was done. So, we sat on the steps and the girls played with the rocks and sticks on the side of the path before heading home. I think it is the same with young children; you need to base the distance or the length of time on the youngest or least mobile in the group.
Remember the Goal:
That day I took the girls out on a hike I realized that sometimes the goal is not the top or the end of the trail, but rather the process of enjoying nature. As they sat there playing on the steps, I enjoyed gazing at the beauty around me, feeling the breeze blow through my hair, and hearing my girls giggle as they played in the dirt with their sticks and rocks.
I believe that kids need to experience nature and I do think that hiking is a great way to do this. As you begin to plan out places to take your kids, you might be interested in looking at the sites below which give some great tips on what to take when planning.
- 10 Tips for Hiking with Kids – great list, especially for young ones.
- Kids and Hiking – advice when hiking with kids.
- Hiking with Kids: Safety – resource on safety.