Share your enthusiasm for being outdoors in the winter. “Kids draw on your energy,” Maurer says, so if you show enthusiasm each step of the way on a winter adventure—especially if it’s clear that you’re excited about sharing the adventure with them—chances are they’ll be enthusiastic too.
Have realistic expectations and be prepared to adjust them downward. In their AMC guide, Maurer and St. Clair suggest that parents plan winter hikes at half the distance a child can cover on summer hikes. For example, a 5-year-old child who can hike 3 miles in the summer will be able to travel only 1.5 miles on a winter hike. “It might be tempting to go farther than you originally planned if you see your child is doing well,” they write, “but avoid that temptation. We’ve seen many small children have major meltdowns within the last quarter mile from the trailhead. Set your children up for success by starting with very short trips and going slowly.”
The media regularly dishes up depressing statistics on children’s inactivity and lack of playtime outside. According to a 2008 study conducted by the Children and Nature Network, only 6 percent of U.S. children ages 9 to 13 spend time outside in a typical week; other studies suggest that even the children who do go outdoors on a given day are spending only about 4 to 7 minutes in unstructured play.
More on outdoors.org from the authors of the AMC Guide to Winter Hiking & Camping:
Building Snow Caves with Children
Winter Camping with Children
12 Great Outdoor Winter Activities for Kids
Buy the AMC Guide to Winter Hiking & Camping at the AMC Store
Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an Appalachian Mountain Club blog. This post was written by Kristen Laine. Photograph by Jerry and Marcy Monkman.