It’s almost been a year since we took one of my daycare children on her first hike. She had always asked to join us but when a child is included hikes need to be geared toward their abilities and interests. At the time she was almost 2 1/2 so we knew this would not be a day to hike many miles, climb bluffs, or explore anything too difficult. That being said, this did not mean we could not all have fun being outdoors.
She was excited, which in turn made us excited, and the key to everything was to make her feel like one of us. We had backpacks, so she needed a backpack, we had water bottles so she needed a water bottle, and so on.
Well, to this day I still hear stories about that hike from this child. She remembers everything from the items she found in the geocache bucket to the cookies we ate on the trail when we found the woolly bear caterpillar. It’s amazing and so rewarding to hear that she had so much fun at such a young age being outdoors.
Which brings us to now, a year older. She has been asking lately if we are going to ever go hiking again and I keep telling her as soon as the snow melts we will. However, this year she has a much larger request for her dream hike. She has this hope to hike into a cave. (And she has no idea that her childcare provider dislikes bats) Not just look at the opening of a cave, nooooo, she wants to hike INTO it. She is going to bring her headlamp that we bought her for her birthday and go explore in this cave. She tells me it will all be fine, that we can hold hands and then we won’t be scared. How nice of her to offer to hold my hand. So, me being who I am, I have started researching caves nearby. I can only hope at this point that she chickens out at the cave opening when she she’s it, but if not, I may just try and convince her that my husband is a better cave explorer that I am and send her in with him. I will keep you all updated on this cave hike when it happens.
The message I am trying to get across is that at any age it is possible to introduce your children to the outdoors.(Here is a great example:a family with four children with two still in backpack carriers hiking)
Keep it simple, age appropriate, let them have input on the adventure and make it fun. You will be amazed how much fun you will all have. For me there is nothing better than seeing families together enjoying the great outdoors.