Many Norwegians grow up with a strong connection to the outdoors, and some go hiking even before they learn to walk, thanks to child carriers. We use the word “friluftsliv” to describe our outdoor lifestyle and nature's power to cure stress and make a bad day brighter. But what's the secret to making hiking trips with children a success?
About Mina and me
Mina Floriana and Alexander Read received the award “Årets villmarkinger” (Wilderness people of the year) during Norway’s largest outdoor fair, Camp Villmark, in 2019, for inspiring Norwegian children and adults to explore the outdoors.
Alexander Read, an experienced hiker and father of two, knows a few things about that. Norwegians know him from the Instagram duo «Mina og meg» (Mina and me), where he shares snapshots from adventures with his daughter Mina Floriana. Together, they’ve explored the unspoilt wilderness of Norway on both short and long expeditions.
These are Alexander’s 10 best hiking tips for parents who want to go hiking with their children.
1. Make it simple
Start simple! You don’t have to walk through a national park, start a campfire, cook on a Primus stove, and put up a tent, all on your first trip. Try one thing at a time. Practice assembling the tent at home (so you know how it works), and pack in advance so that everything is ready the day before you leave.
2. Make the trip a family project
Start by saying “we’re going on an adventure together”, as opposed to “I’m taking my children on a hiking trip.” Allow the kids to take part in the planning – let them have a say in everything from what you’ll be doing to what they can bring, like clothes, books, toys, and food.
3. Explain what will happen
Help the children paint a mental picture of how the trip will unfold. Let them know what the terrain looks like and what you will be doing during the hike, for instance where you’ll have your lunch break.
It is also a good idea to have a chat about situations that can arise, like what you’ll do if they get tired. That way, you can remind them of how you agreed to handle this.
4. Put the youngest in front
That way, you’ll have more control and you can easily notice if the kids get tired, fall over or wander off. Allow them to explore the things that spark their curiosity, while they learn to take responsibility.
5. Enjoy the moment
Reaching the final destination isn’t the most important thing. Focus on what it will take for everyone to be present and happy in the moment. Prepare alternative routes, just in case the weather, wind or even the mood call for a change of plans.
And remember – it is much better to stop or turn around in time, instead of having a bad experience. That way, it’s easier to preserve the magic of hiking.
6. Let the children have a say
Ask the little ones how they feel from time to time – and listen to them. That way, you can adjust the length of your hike or take a break, maybe even enjoy some chocolate. This will give the kids a voice and allow them to make decisions where they can.
7. Reconnect with your inner child
Surprise yourself by taking breaks and pause for a minute, even if you’re not tired.
Wow – look – a giant anthill. A rock that looks like a troll! Really see the wonders of nature. It will put your mind at ease while you also invite the children in, to explore and play. That way, they get to think about something other than just reaching the destination.
8. Wear the right clothes
Bring clothes according to the weather report, but make sure to check the forecast for the entire day – weather can change in the blink of an eye.
It is also smart to prepare some answers for why your kids can’t change their rainwear for shorts. Because let’s face it – they’ll be much more reluctant to put their rainwear back on after they’ve taken it off.
9. Have things easily available
You’ll never regret that you took the time to pack smart. Make sure you can easily reach food, water, snacks, and extra clothes (like hats and mittens), should you or the kids need it.
10. If you forget all of the above …
… remind yourself why you’re on this adventure. It’s not about whether or not the campfire was a success, or if you reached your planned destination and put up a tent – or even if you had to turn around. The most important thing is how everyone feels when you’re outdoors and connecting with nature.
Get to know the concept of friluftsliv – the Norwegian love for the outdoors. For more inspiration on hiking with children, read the full story about Mina (4), who has slept 300 nights in a tent and walked hundreds of kilometres in the Norwegian mountains.
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