Insider’s Guide to Family Hiking
LOS ANGELES – Ready to be blown away? Seven-year-old twins Matthew and Arabella Adams have climbed Mount Baldy 54 times. That’s an impressive number for any hiker, let alone a 7-year-old. Not only that: the first time the twins went on the hike was when they were 3½ years old.
Nancy and Shaun, the twins’ parents, both work full-time while the kids go to public school, but the family prioritizes those trips. “When we were kids, our parents took us camping, so we always loved the outdoors,” Shaun says. “After having children, we shouldn’t stop doing what we love to do. Hiking is an activity the whole family can enjoy.
How did the Adams motivate Matthew and Arabella to go further? Did the twins complain and ask for TV on mile two? What material did they use?
Turns out they started early and never gave up. The couple hiked with one baby each in carriers when the kids were a month old, transitioning them to independent hiking when they were 2½. As Arabella and Matthew became more confident hikers, the family began to tackle more challenging outdoor adventures, like Shasta and Baldy.
The Adams hike four times a month, and more when they’re on vacation. “(It’s) our way of getting away from it all and having some quality family time,” Shaun says. The kids love it so much they don’t complain about anything on the trail, especially the TV.
Here are the Adams’ tips for introducing your little ones to this #hikelife.
Make them the architects of the hike
“Making them feel like big kids and being part of the planning is a very important aspect that many parents overlook,” Shaun says. Arabella and Matthew sketch maps of the planned hike, decide when to take breaks, and choose how long the hike will take.
Start small and local
Start with half-mile hikes, advises Nancy, and work your way up to two miles. “We did a lot of hiking in the local mountains until they were about 3 and a half years old,” Shaun says. “The Hollywood sign was a frequent trail as it was wide and perfect for hiking.”
Turn a hike into a science excursion
The parents encourage the twins to search for and examine ladybugs, lizards and sunflowers using small magnifying glasses they carry in their backpacks. Talking about clouds can also help them want to walk higher. (I recommend “The Cloud Book” by Tomie dePaola to teach children about the different types of clouds.)
Empower them with backpacks
“(Twins) generally carry the same percentage of their body weight as we do. So if we carry 20% of our weight in our packs, they do the same thing,” Shaun explains. This action gives them responsibility for their own (Arabella and Matthew have Osprey Jet backpacks, which are very comfortable around the hips.)
Don’t forget the snacks
The twins always have their favorite snacks in their backpacks, including Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, trail mix, fresh fruit and popcorn.
Bring a fuzzy friend
Matthew and Arabella have Tiger and Ruffy, their well-weathered stuffed animals, in their backpacks for all their adventures, even Baldy’s way through the snow. Having a companion is comforting and gives them someone to care for and cheer on.
Set a fun subject for the hike
“Hiking gives us a chance to chat,” says Shaun. The family answers questions like, “Why do they call him Bigfoot?” Does he have a big foot? Is it a boy or a girl? How tall is he?” Shaun says he enjoys following the twins’ thoughts and unbridled imaginations.
Ask the mountain fairy to visit you
When the twins were 3 years old, Nancy and Shaun invented the Mountain Fairy, a magical creature like Santa Claus who delivered a small toy to children at the top of each mountain. The Mountain Fairy, Nancy says, shops exclusively at Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents store, mostly awarding books, balls, toys, drawing pads and tchotchkes. “They still believe in it,” Nancy says.
Let your kids choose dinner
After each hike, the twins choose where to have dinner. They love to eat Italian food, including salads, spaghetti and pizza, or burgers and fries.
Talk about hiking when you’re not hiking
“Some of the twins’ favorite moments include accidentally eating a mosquito, their teeth falling out and not having a pillow to put it under for the tooth fairy, swimming in freezing water and the excitement when they see things. little animals,” Shaun says. Get kids excited for their next hike by hanging a map on their bedroom wall. Circle the peaks you want to climb and talk about trails they can try when they are older or when they travel further into national parks and other countries.
Set goals and be proud of your accomplishments
“We tell kids that if you’re determined enough to get to the top of the mountain, you can accomplish anything in life,” Shaun says. The twins identified Everest as a potential goal. And now they lead hikes and cheer on their parents, which makes nearby hikers laugh and their parents proud. “They call me the little caboose,” Nancy laughs.
I am impressed not only with the goal setting and common sense that Nancy and Shaun show Arabella and Matthew, but also with the love of nature that they teach. “[The twins] I always want to take care of the little creatures,” says Nancy. “If there’s a bug on the trail, move it to the side. If there is a flower, don’t step on it; stay on the trails. They know it’s part of nature and you can’t destroy it.
Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service