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If you want your hike to be a pleasant experience and your pre-teen to enjoy it as much as you, then it's worth paying attention to a few points and keep them busy with fun activities.
If your kids are more hooked on video games than the idea of a hike at the weekend, don't plan a week's trek straight away!
Start with 1 to 2-hour family walks.Get them used to wearing a small backpack with their picnic; and gradually, plan day-long hikes.
Plan your outing a little (tricky plans are fun as long as you don't have children): identify the route and the possible difficult points (difficult passes, scales, need for rope) and check the actual height difference (to avoid unpleasant surprises).
Check the weather the evening before. Although a few drops of rain should not put a stop to your plans, walking all day long in rain with children can be very unpleasant; in addition to the fact the trails can become slippery and lead to falls.
Check the bags and don't forget food, water and clothing.
You think of hiking as a re-vitalising activity, in which you can do exercise and getaway from everyday stress. Your child does not have the same point of view!
Find pretexts to go out, always set a goal and have some fun activities in reserve to space out throughout the route (consider geocaching). Ideally, bring friends or organise the outing with a couple of friends with children the same age.
In brief, your worst enemy will be boredom and the group effect your ally.
Before the hike, identify the route together and the points that you want to visit.
- D-Day: entrust them with the map and the responsibility for guiding the group, give them the task of spotting all the signs on the route. Regularly look where you are in order to concretely view the progress.
- Play with the place names: go to the "Split Rock", go through the "Fly's Gap", etc.
- Kit them out with accessories: a pair of binoculars, a compass, or a small knife to play on both the fun and educational side. It will be the pretext to observe the animals, learn to orient themselves, make a watermill.
There is no minimum age to start hiking and there are a thousand and one ways to practise it. It will all depend on your experience and your "gut" as a parent and hiker. The important thing is that it is enjoyable for everyone.
From the age of 7, it is possible to plan day-long hikes, or 8-10 km with a 600 m height difference. At 10 years old, their abilities are close to those of an adult. You can easily take them on a hike with a 1000 m height difference, or even plan an overnight hike with a return to base camp for a night and head off hiking again the following day (and really offer them a proper adventure, a kind of improved pyjama party, as a family or with friends!).
Be attentive: unlike an adult, a child will not pace themselves, they may alternate between stages when they are running and stages when they are dragging their feet. Be patient and motivate them.
Also make sure that you bring enough snacks and water. Children have fewer reserves than us and need more frequent energy intakes to avoid tiredness. Likewise, they won't stop playing to drink, don't hesitate to offer them water regularly so that they stay hydrated.
Beware, aptitudes vary greatly from one child to another, depending on family habits and also their mood on the day! So, don't hesitate to review your ambitions and adapt on the go on the day, or even to give up if you are getting a frosty reception. The aim isn't to put your child off.
When back at home, it is your chance to relive and share the highlights of the day as a family: take time to look at and comment on the photos that everyone took.
Suggest that they create an Instagram account and share their proud moments with their friends (#@the summit/I did it!); basically, value their effort.