Once upon a time, I wrote an article about family hikes. In it I said, "We figured if we raised two kids in Colorado and never got out in nature, they'd never let us live it down. So we bought some hiking boots and a guide to the Pikes Peak region and started walking." That was five years ago. Since then, we've had two more kids and out of necessity, slowed down our pace. Recently we dusted off our trail book, laced up our hiking boots, and headed back to nature.
Turns out my advice back then still holds. Even with twice the number of kids (maybe more so). Things like:
Don't be afraid to try something new.
Do it for the kids.
Make it fun.
Five years ago I wrote, "Encouraging a four year old to keep going to the end of a 2-mile hike can be a chore. But when he knows there's a root beer float waiting for him at the end of the trail he's more likely to embrace the challenge. And when his little legs get tired and he starts begging for someone to carry him, we often divert his attention by singing songs or practicing his letters ('What does apple start with?', 'How about baseball?', etc.)"
Maybe I should have actually read that old article before we went hiking. Confession: I remembered it after the hike, while editing these photos. And so instead of having a clever game ready to distract our three-year-old, and certainly no plan in place for root beer floats post-hike, Steve carried our 20 month old in the back pack and the three year old in his arms. (Ibuprofen anyone?)
But even being less-than-prepared, we made lots of memories in a beautiful place.
Back then I wrote about the joys of guilt-free chocolate on the trail. "Who wouldn't love a reason to eat some favorite high-energy snacks, knowing the exercise involved will burn those calories?!" For this hike I forgot to buy snacks before we left.
And so, we stopped here.
Very salty snacks. We should have brought more water than we did.
Instead, we shared our one water bottle and focused on some more of that advice: The thrill of discovery.
There's something new and innocent about a child discovering God's creation for the first time. A new bird, a bubbling stream -- or in this case, our state flower.
All these and more provide lots of oohs and ahhs on the trail while instilling a respect for nature.
Realizing "they can do it" is a big deal for little ones. Each step taken over rough terrain, each trail completed, even the occasional scraped knee can build self-esteem in kids. And even if they don't self-actualize, they'll be glad for some undistracted time with their favorite toys: Mom and Dad.