Have you ever tried to do something with your preschooler that you thought might be magical for the whole family, and it turned out to be completely frustrating instead? Before we adopted our Bella, our family loved to hike. We live in California where majestic trails and outdoor adventures surround us. Hiking for us was all about the trek to and from our destination, and taking in the fresh air on our journey to the waterfall.
Now we have Bella in our lives, she just doesn’t trek or hustle or journey anywhere in a straight path. The trick to beautiful hike with her is to discover the trail.
Discovering the Trail
It is hard for a 2-3 year old to keep her attention on a hike, and the more we have to push her (or carry her) the less fun we all have.I will put it out there, that some of you may carry your child in a backpack or just taught them to follow, but most of the littles I know love my secret.
Instead of a straight hike we encouraged balancing on logs, picking up sticks and really looking at the details of the running stream. When you explore as you go it is okay to pick up rocks and toss sticks into a pond. It sets everyone’s expectations that it is not about reaching our destination but about discovering nature along the trail.
On our latest nature discovery we truly we really didn’t make it very far. I mean REALLY not very far.
Here are some tips to transform your hike to a discovery walk:
- Announce to the family you are just exploring the trail so you set expectations for the rest of the group
- Occasionally ask the children to sit quietly and describe what they hear. I like to listen for a moment and ask “what is a beautiful sound you hear, and what do you like about it?” It could be birds, running water or even people in the distance
- A bit down the road, give the children a few minutes to find something like a pine cone or a shiny rock. Talk about what is special and any facts they know about it
- Looking ahead you can encourage your preschooler to go further by asking if they can find a fallen tree or a creek
- Give your preschooler time to balance on logs, carry big sticks and explore the trail. They love that freedom
- Do I need to even say it? Bring water and go potty first – you know these are two things preschoolers desperately need once they are far from the rest stop
Truth be told, kids grow quickly so my daughter will get to hike to a destination one day soon. For now we all had fun adapting our expectations around her perfect hike. We made memories that we can all remember of when she was small, the tree she climbed into and the giant stick she carried.