Our two are 8 and 10. They have always walked when with us (because we have no car!) but hadn’t done any hiking until summer 2016. In 2016 they did four hikes, covering about 10 miles on each.
My initial instinct was not to spend too much on stuff for the kids as they wouldn’t get the use out of it, but this is a vicious circle: whereas adults will struggle on despite poor equipment, miserable children are so miserable that nobody wants to go for another walk.
Initially we started with:
- Proper walking shoes! Quote from the ten year old: “Wow, it’s really easy to walk with these on!” We haven’t yet upgraded to boots as we haven’t done terrain that really needs them and the kids aren’t used to stiff footwear.
- Proper walking socks.
- Raincoats. We’re in Britain. Enough said. Once we’d established over the summer that they did enjoy walking, we got them waterproof trousers as well. They double as a second layer and a spare pair of trousers and they weigh nothing, so that was a no-brainer in the end of season sales.
As the kids were keen to go walking in autumn and winter as well they now have virtually the same kit as us.
Drip-feeding new kit also acts as an incentive because they want to try it out.
This is also the one instance in which “being dressed like Daddy” is an aspiration. Feeling like a “proper walker” also increases buy-in.
It took us three walks to realise the direct correlation between hungry children and grumpy children. I know, I know, this should have been obvious, but on the first two walks the change from grumpy children to happy children coincided with an improvement in the weather and/or the start of the interesting section of the walk so didn’t realise that they had got hungry.
Pro-tips as regards food:
- A ritual cooked breakfast before a hike gets you a lot of buy-in.
- If you’re getting public transport somewhere you probably ate early and arrived just before lunch. Have second breakfast when you get there.
- Treats. When the weather turns a bag of sweets goes a long way.
- A ritual hot-chocolate or ice cream at the end seals the deal.
- Maximise variety: waterfalls, stepping stones, rivers, rocks, and hills will all keep the kids interested.
- Moorland often has a good mix of the above.
- Avoid pavements, roads and tracks. These are boring. To quote the eight year old: “When I’m scrambling over rocks I don’t notice that my feet hurt”. This is most important at the start of the walk when they haven’t yet decided whether they’re having fun or not.
- The one exception is at the end of the walk when tired children will happily trade boredom for reaching the end of the walk sooner.