My 4-year-old son, Wyatt Maktrav, has climbed 42 mountains in the Philippines, including four of the highest in the country, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.
His first hike was when he was just eight months old at the beautiful Pico de Loro. This coming December, we are setting our sights on his 43rd mountain – and the first international one – at Mt. Fansipan in Vietnam, which is the highest in Indochina at 3,143 meters.
A lot of people have asked us how we have managed to include a toddler to a hobby that not many adults would even do and here are the ten of our best secrets to encourage babies to start climbing.
1. Start early
Wyatt Maktrav’s mountain climbing journey did not really start on purpose. After finding out that I was pregnant, my husband and I had to stop our outdoor activities (we are avid climbers ourselves) for about a year and a half. When we decided to get back, we could not find anyone to take care of the baby so we decided to bring him camping instead. We were surprised to find out that he showed real interest in nature and just loved everything about it – the trees, the environment and even the walking part of the climb.
2. Start now
Hey, don’t worry if your kid is already a few months or years old – it is never too late to start a hobby. However, I highly encourage you to start doing it now. Kids can have very short attention spans and, if they get used to the life of gadgets and technology, it might get harder to take them away from it. You don’t have to do anything extreme at the start. Even a quick camping trip to the beach, a park or a nearby mountain (it does not have to be very high) is already a good start.
ALSO READ: Useful Tips for New Mountaineers
3. Get them interested about the outdoors
When you are living in the city here in the Philippines, finding pockets of nature can be very difficult as there are not a lot of parks around. Aside from quick trips that will help them get exposed to nature, you can also get them interested about the outdoors by reading books about mountains, trees, plants or animals. Kiddie movies and shows that are inclined towards nature are also great materials but try to keep the viewing at a minimum.
4. Let them run wild and free
We were very surprised to find out that Wyatt Maktrav would not stop walking and running when we climb mountains – yes, he would not let us rest. When we choose a mountain to climb, one of the things we always consider is safety for the baby. We check out how long the climbs would take, how rocky the trail or the summit is and if there are limatiks around. We cannot compromise on safety but we also want to make sure that he is allowed to run around if he wants so he would enjoy the journey.
5. Encourage them to do some walking
Of course, you cannot go on hikes and climbs everyday unless you live on the mountains. Make sure that your baby gets his or her daily dose of exercise by letting him or her run around inside the house or around your backyard. That will also give them the chance to explore the natural world so that they will become more curious about the world around them.
6. Show them the view from above
Parents worry so much about getting their kids to behave during a plane ride but you know what might just make them sit down straight? Show them the view. Whenever we book flights (we personally love Cebu Pacific Air), we make sure to choose a window seat to help “distract” Wyatt Maktrav during the ride and also to get him excited about the upcoming climb. Everyone loves seeing a kid’s wide-eyed look when they know that they are going to a particular place that they can only see from the books, movies or from a window plane.
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7. Have them join in your planning
Nothing gets kids more excited than when they are allowed to join in on the planning. You can get them to choose a mountain (or a beach, if you like to camp there first), choose a plane seat or even pack their bags.
Another thing that we like about traveling and climbing mountains is that it helps teach kids the art of packing. Packing is not just about strategically placing your things inside a small backpack but it also involves prioritizing certain items over the other, making sure that they are those that you will truly need and use on your trip.
8. Include a kid-friendly "incentive"
Although the view at the summit is already incentive enough, kids sometimes do not get it. Get them excited about your next trip by giving them a “reward” such as going to a nearby park, playground, museum, library, pool or whatever it is that gets them excited. No matter how jam-packed your itinerary might be, include some downtime so all of you can rest and your baby can enjoy being a baby.
9. Don’t forget the pictures
Why do you even travel and climb mountains when your kid cannot even remember it? There are so many reasons why you should and it includes being able to bond as a family and allowing them to experience nature differently.
When you finally go on climbs with your little one, take it slow and take a lot of pictures. You will love looking at the albums of photos that you have collected and you will be surprised that your toddler will be able to remember snippets of your trips, even if you do not talk much about it.
10. Just let them be kids
Kids are playful and adventurous by nature so if they go climbing trees, digging dirt and just exploring nature then let them be. True, parents can get easily scared about their kids catching diseases or getting injured when interacting with nature but, really, that is all part of growing up. Besides, being constantly exposed to “germs” will actually make you stronger and more immune to diseases; Wyatt has a strong stamina and has, thankfully, never been hospitalized!
ALSO READ: 5 Summer Destinations for Kids near Metro Manila
Parents, it is all up to you to set up an environment that will get your kids inclined to exploring nature and the world around them. Stop limiting their freedom and fuel their passion to learn about the world, whether it is through climbing mountains or not!
ABOUT THE AUTHORfreelance web designer, web developer and SEO specialist. She’s one of the “Top Rated” web designers on Upwork. While living a digital nomad lifestyle, their family loves to explore the outdoors together. Follow their family adventures at wyattmaktrav.com.
ALSO READ: 6 Hiking Spots Near Manila
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