Here are a few ideas that I’ve developed over a few trips for tramping with the little ones. For the walking part at least. Most of these suggestions are the same for day walks (and many daily activities) but the consequences are greater when you’re off on an overnight mission and can’t (or really don’t want to) just turn around and go home. I’m no expert though, so please feel free to comment below or send me your ‘top tips’.
Keep the little people happy – I could probably just leave it as this, say no more. If the little people are happy then everyone’s happy. But what does this mean? Happiness equals well-fed, dry, warm/cool, and happy, much the same as it does at home. Frequent snack and drink stops, clothing layers at that can be easily added/removed. Don’t forget that even in summer, little hands can get cold when walking in the bush, so keep gloves (or socks) available. Cold hands can easily equal grumpy kids. For little ones in backpacks, hands and feet can get pretty cold when hanging down and not moving for periods of time. And don’t forget that you may be walking more slowly too, so keep yourself happy and warm too 🙂 And what about mood? Encouragement, keeping in tune with how your little ones are going/feeling, and making it fun (see below) are also key.
It’s all about them – as with most things as parents. It might be that you want to go tramping for yourself, but if you’re going to take your little people (and why wouldn’t you want to?!), it has to be about them. Otherwise no-one is going to have a good time. Take your time, have fun, stop when they want to stop, look at everything. For me this can sometimes mean a few deep breaths, especially when different kids are at different stages and have different speeds and needs. But pushing a little person when they are happily wandering at their own pace is only likely to slow things down overall. I find taking photos or having a little bird/plant book to read can help to slow me down a bit to little person pace. And thus…
Be realistic – choose an appropriate track and destination. Unless you’ve got a little person who loves to run for hours, or a baby that is guaranteed to sleep in the front-pack whenever you walk, you’re unlikely to reach a hut at the speed you did BC (Before Children). You might have a great idea about a hut that you’ve always wanted to visit at the head of a beautiful valley. But if you’ve never taken your little people tramping before, there’s a strong NW forecast, and you can’t get going until after lunch, then things may end in tears. Some parents manage to take their kids to all sorts of amazing, crazy places, but our style has been to wind things back a lot until the kids are a bit older. For everyone’s sake. We’re hoping that this website might assist people with their realistic decision making, by providing information as to which huts (and tracks) are little people friendly.
Make it fun – Even for adults, walking is not inherently fun, just one foot in front of the other, sometimes for hours. And little people have shorter legs, so that’s more steps for them. It’s the exploring, the company, and what you see and discover that makes it interesting. Walking needs something extra, especially for little people new to this whole tramping thing. It might be it singing, games, races, hide-and-seek, or a balance bike. Our favourite is going with other little people – it never ceases to amaze me how much faster our wee ones will walk or bike when they’ve got others of a similar age to talk to/race/explore with. The distance and time just flies past! Also, be prepared that little time may actually be spent ‘walking on the track’ – it’s more likely to be in the ditch, behind the trees, jumping off stumps… the list goes on. Not so environmentally friendly, but it won’t last and if they’re happy, then what does it really matter that much? If we can make it fun now then hopefully we can create lifelong trampers and environmentalists 🙂
If all else fails, embrace bribery – or even if it hasn’t yet. I think most tramping parents have embraced bribery at some point, or constantly. I’m not talking stickers and stamps here, I’m talking food 😉 Most of us will find some motivation in knowing there’s a sweet treat coming up to reward the effort. You might have to bend the rules a little on what you usually allow but remember it’s only temporary. I recall my siblings and I getting a ‘Sparkle’ every time we went over a bridge or under a fallen tree on tramps as a kid. My (deprived) little person went almost 5km with hardly a complaint, looking for pink pest trap markers which meant she got a yoghurt-covered raisin. For others it might be a biscuit at the hut or an iceblock when you reach civilization. Whatever works for you and your whānau!