Hiking might not sound like the most kid-friendly activity, but in my family it's where some of our best moments happen.
Both my daughters have been with us on hikes since their babyhood – first in various carriers as we traversed through forests, and then having their own boots laced up to hit the tracks themselves. They've each been on multi-day walking adventures since the age of four.
Why? Well, it's simple really: on a bush track, life gets back to basics and the opportunities to connect and learn are as endless as the broad sky ahead.
1. You can achieve anything
It can be difficult to teach your kids that they can achieve things that they didn't believe they could. That's where metaphors come in handy, and there's no greater symbol for achievement than getting up a mountain on your own two legs.
When your child is at the base of a mountain – or even a hill for the little ones – they look up and think that getting to the top is impossible. And let's be honest, even as adults it can feel impossible. But when they reach the top and look back down, it's the most euphoric feeling imaginable.
Then, back in real life, it's simpler to remind the kids that they can do amazing things – after all, they climbed a mountain when they doubted their ability.
2. Adventure is great
There's a time to sit on the couch and take it easy, and there's a time for getting out there and giving something new a shot. I feel like this is an important lesson that people are aware of with boys – that using your physicality is an important outlet – but often forget with girls.
I love nothing more than throwing on a pair of shorts and grotty boots with my daughters and getting outside; we walk for hours on end and get dirty, sweaty and worn out. We leave our frustrations on the track and we come home with a stack of positive emotions. That's a lesson that I hope will serve them well throughout their lives.
3. You can do hard things
"It's too hard; I can't do it" is a common phrase from all of us. Say that on a hiking track, though, and it's like a challenge: yes you can do it, and you're just about to.
When my kids reach that moment on a hike – when they're saying they can't go on, and then they find something in themselves to get a little further – it proves to them that they can actually do hard things. It's all about getting your head in the right place.
4. We're a team
At home it's mum and dad versus the kids – or, at least, that's the pattern that's easy to fall into. On a hiking track, though, we're side by side both literally and figuratively. All of us are working together towards a common goal, and we're each coming up with strategies to do that.
We'll all have a shot at leading our little group, choosing the best path to take; we all pitch in at lifting each other's spirits when one of us is feeling low; we all get there together in the end.
5. One step at a time
The biggest problem, mentally, that you can have on a hike is getting too far ahead of yourself. If you start thinking about the next ten kilometres, the hike back tomorrow, or the mountain you have to scale later, you're likely to throw your pack down and quit.
It's the greatest thing that hiking has to offer us all: to take things one step at a time. If you just take one step, then another, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you'll cover some serious ground.
I think that's an important one for our kids to learn in this busy world that's filled with expectations and pressures. One step at a time, and things will be okay.