When you take kids hiking, are they hiking with you or are you along for their hike?
Learning to hike at a kids level makes a difference. Going their pace and distance are important, but taking the time to see what they see is meaningful for them and insightful for you. Get down to their level and notice the things that they point out. Examine what they spot and discuss it.
YOU MIGHT BE SURPRISED BY WHAT THEY SEE COMPARED TO WHAT YOU SEE.
Hang back just a little and let them lead the hike or let them hike between two adults with some space between to let them feel a sense of independence. It will build their confidence and allow them time to grow.
Encourage them in a fun way to share what they see along the trail by playing games like I-spy. Take photos of the things they see and find interesting. If they are old enough, let them take photos. Let them show the photos and tell the story of their hike to family and friends after.
We realized that we had a mushroom spotter amongst us. After he noticed one, it was game on and he was hunting them out. He was surprised to discover so many different kinds. It allowed us a chance to also discuss which mushrooms are edible. Take the opportunities to educate them about what they find in nature. They really enjoy it and you don’t get near as many questions about how far we have gone, are we there yet and can we go home now.
Most Important, kids will mimic your behavior, so just HAVE FUN!