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Emotions And Lessons Not Taught In The Classroom


When I was younger I spent most of my childhood outdoors. I went camping and fishing with my family, rode my bike any place I could, played in the backyard for hours on end and I would run wild with friends in nearby green spaces. Hiking, mountain biking and climbing entered my world in my late teenage and adult years and thank goodness they did.

Being outdoors is a necessity for me and it started when I was a wee little one, so it was only natural to introduce J-Man to the outdoors at an early age. J-man was hiking at 6 weeks and camping at 3 months. Had he not been a preemie he would have been outdoors much sooner.

Some parents think and have been told that when they become parents their outdoor lifestyle slows down or halts altogether. That is just not the case nor does it have to be. I think all parents should take hold of the opportunity to continue their outdoor lifestyle and to teach their tykes along the way.

There are so many things young tykes learn when out on adventures. They aren’t just trudging up a hill, just sleeping in a tent or just skiing down a slope. Tykes are not only learning about the natural world but they are learning about themselves, too. They learn self-confidence, pride, failure, doubt, disappointment, frustration, the feeling of accomplishment and so much more.

We have witnessed all of these emotions with J-Man during our adventures.

Back in March he hiked 4.9 miles from the Peralta trailhead to the Fremont Saddle that overlooks Weavers Needle in Arizona. The hike was the hardest J-Man had ever done with over 1,300ft. of elevation gain. Hiking can be much harder for little legs. Small boulders that adults can step up and over requires tykes to scramble and climb over. J-Man had to scramble, climb and maneuver big rocks along the trail, which can tire tykes out quicker than their parents.

Toddler hiking Peralta Trail

During the hike J-Man took numerous rest breaks. Elevation gain like that is a lot for little legs, so we allowed him to rest when needed. Encouraging words were given when he doubted his ability to continue on, praise was given when he reached the destination and a huge smile beamed across his face when he realized he had made it. The goal we had been shooting for was accomplished.

Toddler hiking

Family at Weavers Needle

J-Man also learned about disappointment and consequences this past Summer when we attempted to hike a loop in Grand Teton National Park. J-Man wanted to goof around during the hike and walk slower than usual, disregarding our warnings that if we kept up a slow pace we wouldn’t make it to our destination. (Note: We always communicate with J-Man before and during the hike to see if he wants to do the hike in the first place and also if he wants to continue on.) He kept saying yes, he wanted to make it to the lake. Well, the time ticked away and before we made it to the lake we needed to turn around and head back to the trailhead so we weren’t hiking in the dark. He was quite disappointed that we didn’t reach the lake and showed much frustration. We explained the reason why we had to turn around but it didn’t quite sink in, so we thought, from the tantrum he was throwing.

Toddler hiking


The next day we set out to hike to a different lake and made it all the way. J-Man even had time to skinny dip. Lesson learned, maybe.

Toddler frolicking in the lake.

During our backpacking trip in June J-Man had the self-confidence to lead the way, decide on rest breaks and to choose which direction to take at the fork in the trail. He was also confident about the education he was giving us in identifying wildflowers. 😉

Toddler backpacking

These are some of the reasons why we get J-Man out hiking, camping, backpacking, along with all the other outdoor activities. He is learning about himself and learning lessons that can never be taught in the classroom.



Do you have a particular memory of your tyke learning on the trail?









  1. Just came back from Moab not too long ago and did a week’s worth of hiking in Arches and Canyonlands. We couldn’t have been happier with our 4 year-old boy, who kept up with us almost all the time. The hardest hike for him was by far Delicate Arches; he hiked it round-trip on his own power. I really don’t know if he felt as much as pride (as I did for him) when he made it to the Arch, but I was amazed by his limitless energy, zigzagging during the hike and scrambling along the sliprock every chance he had. Most memorable comment was when at the Windows Arch he told my wife, “Mama, this is my playground, right?”

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