IIt’s wonderful to receive calls from parents who want to know what hike their children should go on. Parents who are keen hikers themselves know the value of nature. Children learn life’s lessons fastest when they are on an adventure.
When do you start trekking? The answer is as young as possible. But not in the way most parents think.
First of all, you need to understand some physiological truths. Children grow quickly. Every day your arms and limbs gain strength and build new muscles. As they walk around all day, their lungs get bigger and process more air. Children seem to have an infinite bundle of energy. But like a cheetah jumping after a gazelle, these energies are in bursts. Children cannot sustain the endless energy needed for a hike. This is why children tire easily on a long hike.
When children are tired, they become bored and lose interest in their surroundings. They absorb less and soon the purpose of taking them on a hike is lost. Parents often have a crisis to deal with.
Children seem to have an infinite bundle of energy. But this energy comes out in bursts. You will get tired soon. It is best to choose hikes that are not too long but cover small distances on a daily basis.
As with any other sport, children need to be gradually introduced to trekking. How to proceed:
When the kids are three years old, it’s time to expose them to nature.
Take her out of town and on a nature walk. It doesn’t have to be in the hills. Even a nearby pond or lake will do. Give it a theme, like a flower walk. Let the child show you flowers in 5 different colors. Don’t stop the walk for more than an hour or so. Always set a theme for your walk. It could be a flower walk, a walk to watch insects, a walk to collect leaves, a walk to collect stones. Children love the sense of collecting things. So allow them to bring back their collectibles.
Very soon your kids will start harassing you to take them on themed walks!
By the age of four or five, children become more adventurous.
You want to explore more. It’s time to take her on longer walks. Aim at a local hill and try to challenge it without your help getting to a point halfway. It’s okay if they lose sight of the goal and become interested in something else along the way. Go while you are happy and full of energy. Reward them with a sandwich or something to eat when they reach the goal (yes, avoid chocolate rewards!). Show them how to get to the milestone by reaching smaller goals like a large bush on the left and then the brown boulder on the right. The lessons of life are built in.
A visit to a nearby mountain station at this age is good for your memories.
Children love small rewards on a hike. It could be a sandwich, it could be a badge, it could be a certificate.
When the kids turn six or seven, they’re ready for day trips.
Your understanding of the world has multiplied. You love challenges. Sign them up for day hikes or take them with you on one.
Make a fire on the hike and see if you can get the child to cook a small meal. Make them self-sufficient and set tasks for them. For example, it might be a chore to speak to a few locals and get directions. Pouring over a map and finding points along the way might be another. Clearing trash from the trail might be another.
Children this age love to organize things. Let them organize the equipment for the hike or the meal. With digital / mobile cameras you can get them to photograph the hike as they see it!
When children are eight or nine years old, they are strong enough for a four / five day Himalayan trek.
You are mentally prepared and look forward to the hike. You can easily do without parents. They are ideal team members. The trust that a Himalayan expedition has won lingers with them for a long time. It is reflected in their studies and other activities.
Some of the hikes that come to mind are the Dayara Bugyal, Deoriatal Chandrashila, Ali-Bedni Bugyal, Kedarkantha, Brahmatal, Phulara Ridge, and Har-Ki-Dun hikes. These can be done in May and June when children are on school holidays.
A little later in the season (when some schools are closed in June) Lake Bhrigu and Beas Kund in Himachal Pradesh are great.
Best Himalayan Hikes for Kids
A Himalayan hike works wonders for children. They become great team players, gain a great confidence boost, and improve their studies and other activities.
What if you have never made the preparations I planned and your child still want to start trekking?
You don’t have a moment to lose. Start them right away but choose what is best for them. If you are 5-6 years old, don’t think about a Himalayan trek. Start with themed day tours. When they are 8-10 years old, it is okay to start them on easier Himalayan treks, but to be with them. When they are in their teens, get them to do Himalayan hikes but without you.
It is also important to prepare your child for a hike, no matter how old they are. A month and a half before you start your hike, you should put them on a fitness plan. Prepare your lungs and limbs for the hike. Half an hour of cardio training with squats and pushups is enough. I highly recommend walking in preparation for the hike.
Involve your children in organizing the hike. Don’t spoil them by organizing everything for them. Have them study the maps, location, and geography of the area. Take them with you to buy or rent equipment for the hike.
Have table discussions with your children about the hike. Talk about how you can contribute to trekking as team members.
These preparations will help children mentally prepare for the hike. It keeps them excited and involved.
I’ve seen parents and children change as a family unit on our hikes. The knowledge gained on these hikes is invaluable.
This year Kaamya Karthikeyan was one of the 32 children in India who won the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar Award. It is the highest civil honor given to children in our country. Kaamya received the award for her exceptional achievements in mountaineering and adventure sports.
Kaamya started her Himalayan journey with Indiahikes at the age of seven with the Chandrashila Trek. She went on to do the Har-Ki-Dun, Kedarkantha and Roopkund Trek with Indiahikes.
today Kaamya is the youngest girl in the world to climb Mount Aconcagua and the youngest girl in the world to descend Mount Elbrus. Kaamya is now 13 years old.
There may be a hidden kaamya in your child.
Treks teach children valuable life lessons. It is rooted in the trek and does not require a teacher. Parents recognize this and want their children to take them in. I see more and more young parents encouraging their children to trek. This is a welcome movement that is starting in India.
If you are a parent and have tried something with your child, I would love to hear your experience. Use the comments box below to share your stories.