How to get your children out Walking, Hiking and Rambling
"Are we there yet?" When you've heard this question 16 times in 8 minutes, it can get just a little irritating.
It's not as bad as "How much further is it?", "Michael's looking out of MY window!!" or "I WANNA GO HOME", but "Are we there yet ?" can get very irritating indeed.
Children can be masters at winding up adults. The problem with kids is, they can get so easily distracted if you don't keep up their interest. And a bored child is an unpleasant child. A bored, tired, ratty child who's just had a toilet accident is even worse.
So what can a responsible adult do to cultivate a love of the outdoors generally and walking and hiking in particular?
Follow these tips and, if they still don't like it, well at least it won't be your fault. You'll just have to accept that walking's not their "thing".
First, put away all your personal ambitions.
You're not going to break your distance record, climb three Munros or scramble along Helvellyn's Striding Edge wearing only boxing gloves, roller skates and a pink thong. Just forget it.
Secondly, the child should be provided with a packed lunch containing things that are bad for them - e.g. sweeties, chocolate and fizzy pop that turns into embalming fluid once swallowed. It will all be eaten within ten minutes of starting off anyway.
And don't carry all the food yourself. They will want to carry their own food in their own little rucksack which looks just like Dad's (or Mum's or Sis's etc.)
Thirdly, go to a place that's not boring. Maybe it would have some of the following: a small stream for building dams and / or paddling/looking for bullheads/ throwing stones into; a few boulders for scrambling about on; a pub or a café that likes children to repair to for more unhealthy food and fizzy drinks.
And finally - don't let the kids follow Dad (or Mum or Sis etc.), but rather let Dad (or Mum or Sis etc.) follow the kids.
You won't get very far at all on these first trips. The idea is to let them run around daft, get mucky and tired, get a cut knee and have time for a toilet accident BEFORE the journey home. They might even fall asleep!
Oh, and as an added bonus, Monday morning's essay "Wot I did at the weak end" should turn out to be much less embarrassing than "Followed Dad up a big hill in boxing gloves, roller skates and pink underwear."
Good Luck (you'll need it).
“Many years ago the way we got our children to come walking with us, was to take them youth hostelling. We'd tried the Usborne spotter books which were great when they were very small, but using youth hostels was the turning point when a "boring walk" became a "big adventure". Packing light, because they were each carrying their own kit, was part of the fun. I provided the kit list and the kitchen scales to weigh the towels and T-shirts. We went to the Peak District and the Lake District, where the distances between hostels was small enough for them to manage the days. We took other families too, so the kids had their friends with them. It got us out there again, and it became a life long love for all of them, now adults with their own young families. Of course they all rebelled against the hostelling trips in their teens, but they came back to it, and even went off on their own hostelling trips when they were a bit older. After that I started taking my friends, and later started my own business, but that's another story! I think youth hostels are great!”
Anne Doyle, Epsom
“Yesterday (15th April), took my 10 yr old daughter up Helvellyn along Striding Edge - no boxing gloves, the pink thong is my business, mine alone.
It has taken some time to encourage her, but we are getting there. Support from other walkers has helped. A kind lady yesterday stood at the top of the final climb applauding her and congratulating her.
It is no small thing for a petite girl to accomplish Striding Edge (top of the edge too) and our thanks go to this lady for the assist.
Our daughter's diet has changed considerably, gone are fizzy drinks, fruit rules, sweets are banished, depending on weather conditions a hot chocolate or ice cream is the reward at the bottom.
We watch for wildlife, we study the geology, we look for man's impact on the environment, all in short doses to keep it fresh. Above all we do it slowly to keep her engine running.
If we are too tired to talk we are going too fast. Never give up. There will be dark moments when walking with a child but distraction usually works and the rewards for sticking with it are great.
The adrenaline rush we all felt yesterday on the top of Helvellyn is a feeling that can only be imagined if you have felt it yourself.
PS. If you were up there on 15th April, 2006 and stood in a jam, it was probaly us taking it steady so my apologies. Better late than never!”
Paul Johnson, Todmorden
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