by PATRICK KINSELLA
Hiking with children can bestow them with a love of the outdoors and a thirst for exploration. But before the adventures begin, you have to succeed in dragging them off the sofa.
Turn square-eyed digital devotees into wide-eyed walkers with these tips and tricks for hiking as a family.
Play and plan together
Involving children in the planning of an outdoor adventure can really engage their interest. Show them some potential routes on a map or computer, and ask them to choose which one you do.
During the walk, let them carry the map or GPS unit and lead the way for a bit. Afterwards, review the route together to show them how much they’ve achieved – and let them know how proud you are.
Take baby steps
Starting small is key. Tailor treks to suit the capabilities of the youngest or least outdoorsy member of your group; the last thing you want is for kids to become tired and upset before the end.
Little kids have big memories, so it's important early adventures end well. Start with shorter strolls; sticking to routes that are below 10km (6 miles) until kids are 10 years old is a good rule.
Letting kids get hungry or cold is another avoidable disaster that could dampen their enthusiasm. Make sure you pack plenty of warm and waterproof clothing (layers are best), and take lots of food.
Healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts are ideal, but remember, a sweet treat delivered at the right moment – at the summit of a big climb, for example – can perform magic tricks for morale.
Get yourselves geared up
Encourage kids to prep their own small bag with a mix of essentials and fun extras: a magnifying glass for inspecting insects; a torch for caves or emergencies; and binoculars for wildlife spotting.
If you have a GPS unit, you could try geocaching – a worldwide, everlasting treasure hunt which involves following coordinates and clues to find hidden “caches” containing little trinkets.
Keep it interesting
The success of any walk with children depends on how interesting you make it. You know your own kids best, so why not personalize the trek?
If they like animals, choose a trail where you're likely to spot wildlife; if they're into make-believe, go looking for fairy houses and trolls within woods and forests.
Lonely Planet’s Epic Hikes of the World will inspire a lifetime of adventure on foot.