25 Things You Should Not Say When Hiking With Kids

Last Updated on May 9, 2024

25 Things You Should Not Say When Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also have its challenges. Children may get tired easily, complain about the heat or bugs, or simply be more interested in playing than hiking. As adults, it’s important for us to model kindness and patience while hiking with kids, as well as avoiding saying mean or hurtful things that can make the kids not want to hike again, have a bad relationship with nature, and ruin the experience for everyone.

Here are 25 things you should not say when hiking with kids:

1. “You’re so slow!”

It’s natural for children to hike at a slower pace than adults. They have smaller legs and may need more breaks to rest or explore their surroundings. Saying “you’re so slow” can make them feel inadequate or discouraged, and may even make them want to give up on the hike altogether. Instead, try to encourage them with positive words like “you’re doing great!” or “take your time, there’s no rush.”

It’s important to remember that the purpose of the hike is not to race or beat a certain time, but rather to enjoy nature and spend quality time together. Instead of making children feel like they are holding the group back, try to embrace their slower pace and use it as an opportunity to teach them about different plants, animals, or landmarks along the trail. This will not only make the hike more enjoyable for everyone, but also help children learn and appreciate their surroundings.

2. “I’ll just leave you behind”

Threatening to leave a child behind while hiking can be extremely damaging for their self-esteem and trust in the adult. Even if it’s said jokingly, children may take it seriously and feel abandoned or scared. Instead, try using positive reinforcement by saying things like “let’s stick together as a team” or “we’re in this together, let’s keep going.” This will encourage them to continue hiking without feeling anxious or pressured. This includes threatening that you’ll leave them at home next time.

3. “You always complain”

Hiking can be physically demanding and there may be moments where children express discomfort or frustration. Instead of dismissing their complaints, try validating their feelings and offering solutions or alternatives. For example, if a child is complaining about their feet hurting, suggest taking a break to rest or changing into more comfortable shoes. This will help children feel heard and supported, rather than dismissed and discouraged. It’s important to remember that children may not have the same endurance or stamina as adults and it’s okay for them to express their discomfort or fatigue.

4. “You’re being too loud”

Children can be energetic and noisy, especially while hiking in nature. Instead of constantly shushing them or telling them to be quiet, try to embrace their enthusiasm and channel it into positive energy. This could mean playing games that involve using their loud voices, singing songs, or making up stories together.

5. “If you don’t stop whining, we’ll turn back right now”

It’s normal for children to get tired or complain while hiking, especially if it’s a new and challenging experience for them. Threatening to turn back may only make them more upset and less likely to want to try again in the future. Instead, acknowledge their feelings and let them know that you understand they’re tired but remind them of all the fun and exciting things they’ll see and do on the hike. You can also take breaks along the way or make a game out of reaching certain points. This will help motivate them to keep going and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

6. “You’re not doing it right”

Hiking can involve various skills such as navigating through rough terrain, reading trail markers, and setting up camp. Instead of constantly correcting children’s actions or telling them they are doing something wrong, try to offer guidance and teach them the necessary skills. This will not only help build their confidence and self-esteem, but also foster a sense of independence. It’s important for children to feel empowered and capable while hiking, rather than feeling like they are constantly being criticized or judged. Encouragement and positive reinforcement can go a long way in making children feel excited and motivated to continue hiking.

7. “You’re not strong enough”

Telling a child that they are not strong enough can be damaging to their self-esteem and discourage them from trying new challenges. Instead, acknowledge their efforts and offer words of encouragement such as “you’re doing great” or “keep pushing, you’ve got this.” This will help boost their confidence and determination to overcome obstacles on the hike. Additionally, reminding children that everyone has different strengths and abilities can also help them appreciate their own unique capabilities. Children are more capable than they are given credit for — if you see a family on a difficult trail, praise the kids, don’t tear them down.

8. “Can’t you just walk a little further?”

When children are tired or complaining during a hike, it can be tempting to try and push them to keep going. However, this can lead to them feeling overwhelmed or resentful towards hiking in general. It’s important to listen to their needs, take breaks when necessary and bring all the snacks they love. Instead of forcing them, try saying “let’s rest for a few minutes and then continue” or “we can turn back whenever you need.”

9. “You’re ruining this hike for everyone else”

It’s important to remember that children are still learning and may not have the same endurance or abilities as adults. Instead of making them feel like they are holding the group back, try to adjust the pace and difficulty level to accommodate their needs. This will ensure a more positive experience for everyone involved.

10. “You can’t do it”

Children may struggle with certain aspects of hiking, such as steep inclines or long distances. Instead of immediately assuming they can’t do it, try to offer support and encouragement. You may be surprised by their determination and ability to push through challenges.

11. “Why can’t you just appreciate nature?”

Children may not always have the same level of appreciation for nature as adults do, but it’s important to remember that everyone experiences and enjoys things differently. Saying something like “you never appreciate nature” can make them feel like their feelings or perspectives are not valued. Instead, try asking open-ended questions to spark conversation and curiosity about the surrounding nature. This will help them develop a deeper appreciation for their surroundings in their own way.

12. “You’re not as good at this as your sibling/friend”

It’s important to avoid comparing children to others, especially in a negative way. This can harm their self-esteem and discourage them from trying new things. Instead, focus on each child’s individual strengths and encourage them to try their best without any pressure or comparison.

13. “You’re not paying attention; you’re missing all the good stuff”

It’s natural for children to get distracted while hiking, whether it’s by the scenery or other things they find interesting. Instead of constantly reprimanding them for not paying attention to what you think they should observe, try to engage their curiosity and encourage them to observe and explore their surroundings.

It’s easy for children to get sidetracked and lose focus while hiking. Instead of constantly reminding them to pay attention, try to make the hike more engaging by pointing out interesting plants or animals, playing “eye spy,” or having them take turns leading the way. This will keep their attention and make the hike more enjoyable for everyone.

Safety considerations override this. Always prioritize safety!

14. “Just follow me, an adult has to lead”

While it’s important to stay safe and stick together as a group, children should also be given the opportunity to explore their surroundings and use their curiosity. It’s okay to let them take the lead at times and discover new things on their own, as long as they are following safety guidelines. This will also help foster a sense of independence and self-confidence in children.

15. “It’s too dangerous for you”

While it’s important to be cautious and aware of potential dangers while hiking, it’s also important not to instill unnecessary fear in children. Instead, teach them about safety measures and how to assess risks. This will allow them to make informed decisions and gain valuable skills for future adventures. Often, it turns out that what you’re actually doing is projecting your own fears, rather than recognizing the remarkable capabilities of children.

16. “You’ll never make it to the top”

Negative comments like this can be incredibly discouraging for children. Instead, try to focus on the progress they have made and offer words of encouragement to keep them motivated. Celebrate their achievements, no matter how small they may seem, as every step forward is a success.

17. “I’ll do it for you”

As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our children and make things easier for them. However, it’s important to let them face challenges and overcome obstacles on their own. This will help build resilience and problem-solving skills in children, as well as boost their self-esteem when they accomplish something independently.

18. “If you don’t finish the hike, we won’t do anything fun for the rest of the day”

Using threats or punishments to motivate children is not an effective approach. It can create a negative association with the activity and make them less likely to want to participate in the future. Instead, try using positive reinforcement by praising their efforts and accomplishments along the way. This will encourage them to continue and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

19. “You’re not walking fast enough, we’ll never finish at this rate”

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of reaching a certain destination on a hike, but it’s important to remember that hiking is not a race. Children have smaller legs and may need more breaks or time to explore along the way. Don’t push them to go faster than they are comfortable with as this can lead to frustration and exhaustion. Instead, embrace a slower pace and make the journey a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone. While it’s important to have a schedule and stick to planned routes, rushing through a hike can take away from the experience. Encourage children to slow down, observe their surroundings, and enjoy the journey instead of just focusing on reaching the destination. This will allow them to fully appreciate nature and learn to be present in the moment.

20. “You’re too small to do this hike”

It’s important to challenge children and help them grow, but it’s also important to consider their capabilities when planning a hike. While some trails may be too difficult or dangerous for young children, there are still plenty of options that cater to all ages and abilities. Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to handle a hike, but also be mindful of their limitations and choose a trail that is suitable for them. Give other trail options and get them excited about a trail that is more of their ability level.

21. “Why can’t you just enjoy the hike like everyone else?”

Every child is unique and may have different interests and abilities. If your child seems disinterested or reluctant during a hike, try to understand their perspective and find ways to engage them. This could include pointing out interesting plants or animals, playing games along the way, or allowing them to take breaks and explore on their own. Encouraging their curiosity and enjoyment of nature will help make the hike a positive experience for everyone.

22. “Stop complaining, you’re ruining the hike”

Children may have a harder time adjusting to physical challenges or being outdoors for extended periods of time. Instead of dismissing their complaints, try to empathize with them and address any legitimate concerns they may have. This could include taking extra breaks, offering snacks or water, or adjusting the pace to accommodate their needs. Validating their feelings and finding solutions will help create a more positive atmosphere for the entire family.

23. “Why do you always have to ask so many questions?”

Young children are naturally curious and may have a lot of questions about their surroundings. Instead of getting frustrated, use this as an opportunity to teach them about the environment and foster their curiosity. This could include identifying different types of plants and animals, explaining geological formations, or discussing the history and significance of the area. Encouraging learning and exploration will make the hike more engaging.

24. “Stop playing around and focus on the hike”

While hiking can be a physical activity, it’s also important to remember that it can be a fun and enjoyable experience. Instead of constantly pushing your child to move quickly or stay on track, allow them to explore and play along the way. Allowing them to have some freedom and fun during the hike will make it more enjoyable for them and help them develop a positive association with being outdoors. For example, follow a scavenger hunt along the trail!

25. “Why are you so scared? There’s nothing to be afraid of”

Children may be afraid of certain aspects of the hike, such as crossing a bridge or encountering wildlife. Instead of dismissing their fears, try to understand where they’re coming from and address their concerns. Explain the safety precautions in place and reassure them that you will be there to protect them. You can also use this opportunity to teach them about respecting nature and its creatures, making the hike not only a fun experience but also an educational one.

Positive Reinforcement & Encouragement

The important thing to remember is that hiking should be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Instead of using negative and discouraging language, try using positive reinforcement and encouragement to keep kids engaged and excited about the hike. Hiking can also be a great opportunity for learning and discovery, so embrace children’s curiosity and encourage them to explore their surroundings in a safe manner.

By focusing on negative comments and criticisms, we may unintentionally discourage children from wanting to continue hiking or exploring outdoors in the future. Instead, praise them for their efforts and accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. This will help build their confidence and make them more likely to want to participate in outdoor activities again.

Setting Realistic Expectations

It’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to hiking with children. Keep in mind their age, physical abilities, and previous hiking experience when planning a hike. Don’t set out on a long and strenuous hike if it’s their first time hiking or they may become overwhelmed and discouraged.

It’s also important to remember that children have shorter attention spans and may get tired more easily than adults. Plan breaks along the way for snacks, water, and rest. This will not only provide physical relief but also give children a chance to take in their surroundings and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Teaching Responsibility

Hiking is a great opportunity to teach children about responsibility and how to take care of themselves and their environment. Encourage them to pack their own backpack with essential items such as water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. This will not only lighten your load but also make them feel like they have an important role in the hike.

Teach children about Leave No Trace principles and how to properly dispose of trash and waste while on the trail. You can also involve them in activities such as picking up litter along the way or identifying different plants and animals, promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility for the environment.

Making It Fun

Hiking with children should be a fun and enjoyable experience. Involve them in planning the hike by letting them choose the trail or pick out some snacks for the trip. You can also turn the hike into a game by creating a scavenger hunt or having them collect items such as leaves, rocks, or pinecones to make a nature collage.

If the children are old enough, consider bringing a camera and let them take photos of their favorite parts of the hike. This will not only keep them engaged but also create lasting memories for them to look back on.

Safety First

While it’s important to have fun, safety should always be a top priority when hiking with children. Make sure everyone is properly dressed for the weather and has appropriate footwear. Always bring a first aid kit, map, and plenty of water.

Teach children about potential hazards such as slippery rocks or steep drops and how to navigate them safely. It’s also important to set boundaries and rules during the hike, such as staying on the designated trail and not wandering off alone.

Hiking with children can be a rewarding and memorable experience for both the adults and the little ones. By involving them in the planning, teaching them about Leave No Trace principles, making it fun, and prioritizing safety, you can create a positive and enjoyable outdoor adventure for the whole family.

Remember to also encourage curiosity and appreciation for nature in children, as they are the future stewards of our planet. Continue to explore new trails and destinations with them, and watch as their love for the outdoors grows.

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