As parents, it’s our job to make sure that our children grow up to be good people. We try to make sure that our kids’ basic needs are met – food, clothing, shelter, safety. We set all kinds of boundaries that reflect our heritage, our parenting styles, and our children’s abilities and personalities. We teach them how to survive in the world that we live in.
Then we hit the trails and our children become wild animals. Okay, not all of our children but some definitely do! My own children may have been adopted from a Tarzan-like family, or so you might think if you ever see them out in nature.
If you were a hiker before finding Hike It Baby then you are probably already aware that there is some basic trail etiquette that is expected among your fellow adult hikers. These “rules” help keep us safe and keep nature a pleasure to be out in! Shouldn’t it be a matter of course to also teach our children similarly so that hikers outside of your local Hike It Baby branch find it a joyful experience to share the trails with our children? Many of the Hike It Baby hikes are extremely child friendly and setting boundaries for our children may seem unimportant, but what about when they go on more difficult hikes? What about when they get bigger and are ready to “take it up a notch”? Setting your expectations from the get go ensures your children’s success.
My family and I are avid hikers from pre-Hike It Baby days. My 4.5 year old daughter recently hiked with me on a moderately difficult 8.5 mile trail all with her own two legs. While this may not be typical of a 4 yr old, and children’s abilities and stamina vary greatly, this is not unusual for her. Her familiarity with proper trail etiquette helps to make our longer and more difficult hikes safer and more enjoyable. (Now if I can just get her to stop trying to climb every other tree we see while on the trails!)
Here is what we strive for with our children and trail etiquette:
It goes without saying that parents know their kids better than anyone else and some rules may not be applicable or some might need added per a family’s own needs.
Now I have known some to question #3 – No running and no throwing. Isn’t that part of the fun of being outside? Well, yes but not on the trails. For my family this is non-negotiable. Both of these activities seem to escalate quickly, particularly when there are other children around, and someone always ends up getting hurt. Running on the trails is not safe. There are too many variables for it to ever be safe. Roots. Wet leaves. Rocks. Etc. Throwing is also not safe. You could hit wildlife or another person. The only exception to this rule (again for my family) is throwing rocks into water. We do not consider stopping by a waterfall, river, pond or lake as being “on trail”.
I hope that some of you find this useful, even if it’s merely a jumping off point for conversation. Enjoy your next adventure!
Brittany Roy is a stay at home mom of two girls, Tallulah (4.5) and Ainsley (1.5). She is a Homeschool Mom, Gypsy Spirit, Yoga Lover, Hiking & Belly Dance Enthusiast, & Chai Tea Addict. She has been a member of her local Hike It Baby branch in Fredericksburg, VA since the end of October 2015.