Depression and anxiety are on the increase with research suggesting that a lack of outdoor activity, freedom and adventure are a main contributor. We are firm believers in being good role models for our kids and recently took three willing 14 year old’s to the Grampians. Two of these belonged to us – nothing like being dragged along to your parents work on the weekend! They were joined by another youngster, Caleb, and all three were treated just the same as the adults as we set off on a tough walk in warm conditions, each carrying their own gear and walking the same route as everyone else.
They worked hard during the weekend, not whinging when legs and shoulders became tired and sore, and continued to walk strongly proving that youth can be a big advantage outdoors. The three kids made us very proud for getting out of their comfort zones and we hope they can inspire other teens to get outside and give adventure a go. They Instagrammed all their pics on their return and we hope they get the kudos they deserve!
This is only one of the occasions that our kids have been taken out and about to explore their world. From beach exploration, snow camping, overseas trips, day walks and overnight hikes, we love seeing them interact and learn through experience. Making them more rounded adults and hopefully keeping their anxiety at bay.
Here are our suggestions to encourage your kids to get outside and enjoy more hiking in nature.
1. Find walks that are fun. Kids will generally walk better if there is some some scrambling, rocks, twisty trails or something that will interest them rather than an easier straightforward trails. This my mean you have to look further afield for walks to entice them but it will pay off as they jump and hop along a trail.
2. Let them carry their things. Our 14 year olds carried their own clothes, sleeping bags and mat, water etc. This gives them a sense of responsibility, and gives them a sense of accomplshment far above just achieving a walk. Even one of our 6 year olds gets a tiny bag with his water and teddy poking out of the top! makes them feel part of the team. Having said this, bear in mind that you don’t overload them.
3. Make it a group affair. Just trying to drag your kids out on your own when other members of the family choose to stay back is not ideal. Try to involve the whole family, extended family, a friend or two and although it will be harder for some, make sure to encourage everyone for the effort they put in.
4. Choose a good day. Don’t make your first few walks in mid winter, or a boiling hot summers day (unless it’s a beach walk). Try to plan for some nice weather as no one really enjoys being cold, wet and walking for hours up a bush track. Nor is it particularly to wal an exposed ridgeline in the middle of a summers afternoon. Generally kids will have less weather resilience than adults so a little bit chilly won’t go down so well with kids.
5. Our last tip for getting your kids outside is to bribe them. Take your to kids to the shops beforehand and let them choose a bag of lollies they can carry. We definitely promote healthy eating, however some nice treats on a walk will make them a lot happier and then start to vary the treats so after a few years of hiking, treats become half soggy crackers with cheese in the middle of five day hike.
Ultimately kids will do what you do, so remain positive, encourage lots of opportunities and get out there walking. If you don’t know where to go or want more advice, jump online and join a meet-up group or get them involved in some adventure by bringing them along to a Take Shape Adventures Weekend.