As Winter approaches, the Hills begin to beckon. It’s the right time of the year to take children out and give them a taste of the Wild.
One of the many activities you can get them started on, is Hiking.
First timers may have doubts. Those familiar with trekking might have questions about how they’d manage with children. At what age can one start? How does one keep a child engaged during a long climb? Still others may be looking for tips, groups and locations.
A guest post from Ashwini Nawathe, an avid trekker and a friend with whom I share so much in common (its no coincidence that we’re both lawyers-turned-history buffs and writers!), giving tips, tricks and more to get started with hiking. So over to Ashwini…
When you step out into the woods, there’s a different world out there. The awe, the charm and beauty of the mountains will truly humble you. And they will definitely mould your child.
My love for the mountains started when I read The Cherry Tree, a short story by Ruskin Bond. I instantly fell in love with the story, the author and the mountains. I wanted to live in Mussoorie and have my own garden of cherry trees. That’s where my passion for the outdoors originated.
I started trekking when I was 10 years old. My parents’ decision to introduce me to trekking was something I feel eternally grateful for.
Life Lessons from Trekking
Nature is the best teacher they say. Hiking and trekking can transform kids and instill determination and willpower in them.
Because although trekking in the mountains is fun, it takes a lot of hard work and patience. At the end of the day, that exhausting journey is going to make your child stronger and teach them valuable lessons of life – co-habiting, adjusting, team work, helping one-another, sharing and so on.
Here are a few tips from me to introduce your children to trekking –
Get your kids hiking as early as possible. Age is not an issue but remember kids get tired easily so start with small targets.
Before taking your kids on long and tenuous treks, expose them to the outdoors first. Get them interested in trees and mountains.
Children are curious and adventurous by nature; stop to explore the open area, lakes etc along the way. Give the kids time and space to explore their surroundings. The summit is not the target here. Allow them to explore.
Introduce them to hiking by taking them to local hillocks. Take them out on short and simple nature trials.
To keep them interested in the trek set them small challenges. The best way to keep the child entertained is to ask them to collect flowers of a particular colour or pebbles of a particular shape or size and other such things (I have a lot of such collectibles from my childhood treks).
Make them feel involved in the trekking activities. Ask them to collect firewood for camp fires or to hold up the tent flaps while you set the tent up.
If possible, see if you can get the kids to cook a small meal on camp fire. It’s a very engaging activity and kids love it (I know I used to love cooking daal chawal on camp fires)
Let them carry their own small bags. You can carry the extra weight but let them carry at least a pair of clothes, socks and water bottle. This way they will learn to take care of their own chores and learn to clean up themselves.
Pack clothing as required for the climate in the region that you intend to trek in. Carry comfortable walking shoes, hat, sunglasses and lotions. Always carry your personal medicines and keep a first aid kit handy.
Ask your kids to document their experience. You can pack small notebooks and sketch pads into their bags. Just for once let’s leave the mobiles and tabs out of this experience. Let the kids go old-school here and connect with the nature.
Try to get your kids out of their comfort zones. Encourage them to try different things. Climb some rocks and trees. Swim in ponds. Fish in lakes. The impact of that change will be refreshing.
Historical Forts atop hills add another dimension to hiking. Tell children stories about episodes of history that occurred on those hills. Bring History Alive as you Trek and when they finally visit the monuments atop the hill, they are unlikely to forget it.
There are many organisations and groups that organize treks and camps. I suggest you start with an organised group, so that in case of an emergency, there will be expert mountaineers and regular trekkers to help you, because trekking with kids can be a bit tricky.
However, if you are comfortable and confident enough, you can venture out on your own.
Here’s a small list of some interesting and easy treks around Mumbai:
Kanheri Caves, Borivli
Yogi Hills, Mulund
Korigad, near Lonavala
Lohagad, near Lonavala
Rajmachi, near Lonavala
Raigad, near Mahad
Matheran, near Karjat
Pandav Leni, near Nashik
Sudhagad, near Pune
Peth cha killa or Kothali gad, near Karjat
Tikona, near Kamshet and many more….
Some organizations in and around Mumbai that you can start trekking with
Get your kids out there. It’s good for their spirit and excellent for their health.
In this fast-paced world, these small escapades will help you connect with them. They will see amazing landscapes and beautiful views, meet kind and interesting people and learn a lot more than they will in a classroom.
Most importantly, you will be creating great memories for life!
Interested in more Outdoor Trips?
- Click here to know more about getting kids started with Birding.
- Click here to find out more on planning trips to National Parks with Children
- Click here to get children started with Outdoor Trips
- Want to hone your child’s skills for the Wild? Click here for More!
- Ten Reasons Why you MUST take your Child into the Wilderness
More about Ashwini