Getting Your Kids Outdoors

Posted by Elena 31/03/2018 0 Comment(s)

We have one basic strategy for getting our kids interested in the outdoors, willing to join us on regular weekend hikes, willing to carry a backpack with gear for a weekend trip, willing to climb mountains, walk and ski for hours, etc.

 

That strategy is this: We are the Tougas family and this is what we do. It was not a question of if you want to hike with us, or "how do you feel about hiking?" In our family we hike, we ski, we backpack.

 

I think it's sad how modern parents have lost a lot of gumption when it comes to doing physically challenging things with their kids. Children have been doing physically challenging things for the ages. We're built for it.

 

Humans are built to move, sweat, explore, and discover. It's only in our modern age that sitting and inactivity have become the norm.

 

We respond to our kids' needs physical needs. We make sure they are dressed appropriately and fed well for the activity. We have done countless gear adjustments through the years to accommodate their growing bodies. When they complain about a concern we listen and address it.

 

When they were little and unable to, we did the work of preparing all the gear, food, etc. Now that they are older they do all their own packing but we still take care of meeting their needs. We're the parents, we lead. They're the children, they follow. Except of course when we're on the actual trail, they lead and we follow.

 

How it actually works to do "family outdoors".

 

When children are infants you you strap them to you. First in front, then in the back.

 

When they are toddling you have to seriously slow down your pace, alternated with times of pulling and carrying. At this age, children delight in the natural world and you want your remaining years in the outdoors together to build on that delight.

 

As they get a bit older, ages 4, 5 and 6 you increasingly pick up the pace. Their legs can do it. At the younger end of this spectrum you may want to use some method of pulling and carrying if you are serious about mileage.

 

After age six or so, it's onward and upward. A 6, 7, 8 & 9 year year old child cannot keep up with a full day adult pace. But a happy compromise can be reached. Each season the child will go farther and be able to carry more of their gear.

 

At some point, it hasn't happened yet for us but I think it might next year, the child's physical ability will surpass your own. What children lack at this age (13, 14, 15) is perhaps diligent attention to safety (so says the mother). But they catch on through trial and error, and parents can provide the safe margin of error for that learning to happen.

 

We started our family outdoors journey when our baby was three. We never did have to juggle a nursing infant, and doddling toddler, and a ready-to-roll five year old. Our experience has been limited to the "increasingly picking up the pace stage" and I should add that our youngest is also our most competitive child. We have used that to our advantage.

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