First Hike.

We’ve been working on getting our almost 14-month old walking longer and longer distances. Like many of you know, walking with kids is similar to herding cats. They don’t bee-line it as much as stagger in circles until they are tired and ready to go home. My kid isn’t any different than the aforementioned felines.

Yesterday, however, he wanted off the paved path that runs near our home and catted down to a dirt trail slightly below. It was late (we started out at 8:30PM because we’ve got sunlight until almost ten-o-clock at night right now), but as I’ve suggested before, you have to give kids “their own walk” if they’re going to learn how to be upright and moving forward on their own legs. Off-roading is where he wanted to go.

The next hour was pure magic. This kid, now directed by nature’s walls, was focused on the narrow walk way ahead and proceeded to run/walk for over a mile, stopping only to fall, inspect some grass, poke a slug, and smell the flowers.

I don’t spend a lot of time writing about stuff I don’t know — mostly because writing about what I do know is challenging enough, and why be masochistic about blogging — but something occurred to me on this walk.

Walking long distances is a very natural skill we should all have. What makes it so hard, then, to teach it to children? Let’s assume that the parent is walking and modeling good behavior. Why do kids not catch the wave and walk in a way that would help out the theoretical group? I’ve read about the psychological phenomenon of offering a child too many options, as in “what do you want to eat” or “what do you want to wear” as the child surveys every item in their closet or the product-lined aisles at the grocery store. Having too many options is not a “natural” phenomenon in itself and renders a child unable to decide. Much better, say the experts, to offer them a choice, as in “Would you like eggs or cereal?” or “the red tights or green shorts?”

Could it be that large spaces, mowed down for roads and cars and bikes just overwhelm them and make it difficult for them to take the necessary (ahem) steps? Scientists are now understanding that in order to reap the benefits of natural movement, one cannot eliminate the variables that would be in place, naturally. Natural noises, plants, uneven terrain, wind speeds, temperature, sunlight…these are the obvious variables, but there are, of course, probably a hundred other items we cannot see or think of to quantify — perhaps distance between nature and our face.

I was thinking about ants and how they walk along a trail, dropping food or nest pheromones along the ground to help others find their way. Have we, humans, been so out of touch with walking for the purpose of living, that we have erased all the necessary trails left by our forefathers? Wanting to know more about ant trails, I did a quick journal article search and came up with this:

Behavioral patterns at the level of the society emerge spontaneously from the interactions between the individual ants. This process is comparable to the self-organization described in physico-chemical systems, in which both non-linear mechanisms and stochastic events play an essential role, and is illustrated by the way in which Tetramorium caespitum foragers are able to select one source from two offered in experimental conditions. The recruits spontaneously move towards the most efficient distribution between the two sources, within the limits of mass recruitment. The observed asymmetrical exploitation of two identical sources is described as a bifurcation phenomenon, and could not be explained by a traditional reductionist analysis of communication. It is predicted and explained, however, by a mathematical model which quantifies trail recruitment. In this model, error during trail following allows the discovery of a second source, and the increase in trail following accuracy as the recruitment proceeds is fundamental to the self-organization process, in this case the selection of one food source.

Which makes me think, hey researcher guy, do you want people to learn from all of your hard efforts or what?

So, anyhow, I don’t know anything about ants and trails and stuff. And possibly less, after reading this abstract. But I do know that, when given a wide-open, asphalted space my son was less apt to move forward steadily because, well, he doesn’t have to. He has a multitude of directions to choose from in this scenario. When given a smaller, more specific trail, he not only moved forward steadily (relatively speaking) but with screaming joy. Or was that me?

Most of us live in an urban jungle, I totally get it. And, please do not think that your walks are non-beneficial in every shape and form. I once heard a personal-trainer friend of mine tell her client that she was going to get fat from “eating that banana.” I was all, “Dude, didn’t she used to eat candy bars? Isn’t a banana a whole lot better of a choice, in many areas in addition to sugar content?” Which seems kind of like a non-sequitur, but I have a point, really. If you are just now walking, you are totally nailing it. I don’t want to discourage you from what you are already doing on a regular basis. I just want to add some homework. Can you find a rural area in nature, or more “in nature” than your regular walking space. Make it a once a week or once a month thing, but make it…every now and then. Send out a Facebook request to friends in an area for their suggestions of short walks in wilderness. You might be surprised to learn about a field or a campus that has an area you weren’t aware of before.

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for…le video. Ten minutes of just a little walking man, squeals of delight, sounds of nature..and snot – the snot’s mine, sorry. It’s OK if my parents are the only ones who watch. Although it’s reallllllllly cute, and I think kinda zen. That’s all I’m saying.

If you are new to the kids and walking thing, read more here: Caution, Kids Not Walking and here: Walking, with kids.

Are you still interested in learning more on this?

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56 thoughts on “First Hike.

  1. I love how he put his hat in with its natural camouflage; seems logical to me. The end when he’s holding his parents’ hands is the best. What a memory. Obviously, I have kids so yes, I watched all 10 minutes, ‘natch. I have a 19 month old who will run along the grassy boulevard beside our sidewalk (with great caution-to-wind speed), but will mostly toddle along on the cement. I’m fine with this, as her kamikaze-style gait has a much softer landing on the grass, anyways.

    1. That’s another thing we noticed — FV will typically be walking just off the path, on the dirt or grass — even when we aren’t. I love it!

  2. Okay, I’m totally commenting because you said “dude.” As in, dude, didn’t she use to eat candy bars. Amen. And as a mother of two, I can totally see what you are saying. Why walk when there is no challenge? A paved road means the path has already been claimed, trodden, tamped down… where’s the adventure in that? There are seldom flowers along paved roads…

    1. I can’t help it, Dude. I’m 1) from California and 2) A big fan of The Dude. As in, Lebowski.

  3. Awesome video of Finn’s first hike! That’s why people have kids to see the things we see everyday thru the eyes of children!


  4. Fin-Bob is too cute!!!! Watching him take a walk in the green, surrounded by bird song, is very soothing. I need a copy of his hat for my next forest hike. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Liked the observation: When there are fewer choices of direction to go, the little one is more likely to go farther in one direction. That natural scheme of things could also apply to my life.

    From Fin’s point of view it must look like a jungle out there and he met it head on.

    Nice walk! Thank-you Fin-Bob for the stellar example and the little chill out time it took to watch it.

    Be good to see all of you next month.

    Luv, Mary Ann

    1. Thanks for calling that out — the ‘natural’ scheme of things 🙂 I can only imagine what the world looks like to him…

  6. That’s why landscape designers prefer curved paths over straight paths. It makes you wonder what’s around the bend, so you keep going. And…he is way cute.

    1. Yes, I think exploration is also a component of natural movement “they” have determined!

  7. That’s great – of course I was watching feet as I always do. Nice and straight. My kids are considerably older than yours (20/23) but I love seeing the world through the eyes of a child – I never tire of it. Imagine walking along a narrow path where the growth is higher than your head and a few stalks of grass can stop you in your tracks.

  8. love his hat. i gave my mum one very similar for christmas a few years ago. =) interesting thoughts to ponder, too. we don’t have any kids yet, but we’ll be taking a small group of 7-to-11-year-olds on a nice long walk/hike next weekend. ostensibly, the mister and i are showing them our secret feral blackberry stash and teaching them to be mad scientists and make jam, but realistically, they’re going to get a couple miles in on their feet as well. =)

      1. you are living smack in the middle of the best berry territory that I know of. just find a good source away from a road and bingo, berry everyting.

  9. Zen was a good description. Tell me when he is ready for Cape Alava, I’d love to take him. Someone once said we can watch, almost forever, three things – a candle, the waves and small children. I’ll go back to this wonderful

    video many times. Gives us a chance to renew again and again.

    Tell me why you say “good job”. Would you be able to break yourself of it?

    1. Ok — we counted our 3 “good jobs” — MINE: was happy at Finn’s working through the physical obstacles to continue with his movement MC: Was to reinforce the decision, so in a similar situation, he’d make the same one. And we have now done an internet search on “WHY SAYING GOOD JOB WILL MESS UP YOUR CHILDREN” and feel more informed, thank you! Also, your comment has spurned a whole lot of “You just said “Good Job” once more than I, so I am clearly the better parent” and “Did you see how I said “You did it” instead of Good JOB? That makes me the better parent” and “did you hear all the times I didn’t say anything on this video? I am clearly better at this than you” type of conversation about our home tonight 🙂 And, can I break myself of something? Of course. We all can, of anything if we desire it. If I can change the way I walk or hold my body all day long, then something we’ve got recorded with a frequency of 3 times in an hour stands a very large chance!!!! Thank you for your comment!

      1. Sorry, of course I know you can change things. Perhaps my question was not as subtle as I intended. Hope I didn’t cause too much damage. If you have time and inclination to go back to the subject further, my favorite source of wisdom on some alternatives to the phrase, is Alfie Kohn. I’d love to hear your opinion, remember that I am in favor, as a Montessorian, in early independence of the child. I still try to hear what others say, though.

        See you at the Pelvic class.

        1. Are you kidding!?? We love conversations like this. And, we’ve spent the last hour discussing language and positive reinforcement and you’ve forever changed our perspective. A sincere thanks, really. So excited you are joining us on Sunday! Can’t wait to meet you in person! – Katy

        2. Thanks for calling out on the “Good Job.” As Katy indicated, it piqued an interest around here. Wanting to learn more, I’ve spent the evening reading some things written by Mr. Kohn, and feel well-aligned with his overall philosophies. To be sure, he is a lot more concerned about the effects of praise in general, but it’s not clear to me why that particular phrase is so objectionable, compared to some of the others he lists as substitutes, like “You Did It,” which to me feels like the same thing. I suspect it might be splitting hairs about a symptom, when the real issue has more to do with the motivations of everyone involved. I think I’ll get his book and find out more…

          1. You are very welcome.

            You might try looking at the self esteem movement in general for a bigger picture. Kohn is just one voice, and you have a good point I think, it certainly feels close (you did it).

  10. Living in Ojai, I started my boys off hiking trails at a very young age. Such good times. As they got older and lost a tiny bit of the enthusiasm, I would make it a game.. “can you make it to that bush with the purple flowers?” ect…

    Amazing how their little legs could make it a good 3 miles on narrow, rocky hiking trails & how good they slept that night! Keep it up! It is some of my best memories, photos & video. And at 13 & 15 yrs old, they will still hit the trail with us! .

  11. What fun! Love the Kermit-the-frog hat. What ever happened to Kermie? He’s not on anymore :o(

    If you don’t already recognize nasty plants, I urge you to learn to recognize two on sight in their leafed out -flowering stage, and in dormancy so the poor kid won’t have a problem later: poison oak (P.O., Toxicodendron diversilobum), stinging nettle (Urtica sp). Uritca urts you…nasty stuff. Both plants are common in riparian understory areas from Canada to Baja Mexico, and poison oak can also be in less moist environments…where you are not expecting it (e.g., in the coastal scrub and chaparral habitats in Cali). The more exposures to poison oak the quicker and more nasty the onset of rash (ie, the more sensitized the immune system becomes to the oils in the plant). And, you can get just as nasty of a P.O. rash when its dormant and appears as a pile of sticks. I just look at P.O. now and I start to itch.

    1. Thanks TS! A side question: Can people be “immune” to PO? I can’t get it if I tried. Also, it’s in the same family as mangoes, ya? I’ve always heard that people who are sensitive to mangoes also have a horrible relationship with PO. Any input?

      1. Katy, I love it when I get to run to the internet and find out something.

        I found this web site

        It seems to confirm the plant family connection but interesting (and not too suprising) the oils in the different plants are different. Anecdotally, I have observed that if a person is sensitive to PO then there is a high probability of mango sensitivity (an old SO used to gear up [practially in a hazmat suit] to peel a mango, but once it was peeled he was okay in eating it-after a good rinse; so can you guess who did most of the peeling?). He actually did gear up in said suit when we battled PO on the property around our house. Also, when oils volatilize (?) like in wildfire situations, you can get a PO lung reaction if you breathe the smoky air. Scary.

        Regarding immunity, I’m not as clear on that but some web sites claim that you can induce immunity. Frankly, I consider some of those suggestions to be sheer insanity and wouldn’t reccomend that unless you have a person ready to call paramedics or rush you to an emergency room for a BIG shot of prednisone. That said, I can certainly imagine that your skin is not suceptible to PO oils, but then maybe you haven’t had enough exposures…yet.

        ps: the PO on Sulpur Mtn road is in full leaf, some turning red already, and there was a ton of it on the hillsides under oak canopy and in full sun…so beware of urinating under oaks when in Cali!

        Happy Hiking!

        1. My husband, his dad and at least one sibling have no reaction to poison oak. Even when they (foolishly, I think) rubbed it onto their skin, nothing happened. So maybe it runs in families? I don’t know if it’s immunity, but it’s something.

      2. You can be immune to poison oak/ivy, but don’t go around eating leaves to prove it. Because even the least sensitive people can get poison oak rash…ahem!…rectally. (I didn’t prove this, but a friend did. I have always reacted to poison oak and ivy, and as Theresa suggests, I think my repeated exposures have made me more sensitized to it.)

  12. Oh, thanks for this. I watched it all and remembered all the walking my children and I did in areas much like this. I don’t know which was cuter, your delight at watching your son or his delight about his trip!

    This also helped me remember how to take my walks when I go up my 10,000 foot mountain. I go up by tram and walk around on top for 90 minutes or so. i went up last week with only a tee shirt and enjoyed the 25F deg wind chill factor. I must be adjusting and gloves on my hands take care of the cold! Anyway I stroll around and look at all the rocks and spring flowers, I look up at the sky and trees. I take some deep breaths and don’t feel like passing out any more. I thought that must be how Sherpa kids in the Himalayas got used to the cold. The only thing I don’t do is the vocalizations. I wonder if he’s doing an early form of singing? I remember a story from my childhood where my grandmother asked my mother why was “that child yelling and shouting so out there”. As I recall there was a hill in back of the house that must have made a good sounder. I’m definitely going to do the vocalizations too! LOL

  13. Yup, I’ve experienced this. We always took the kids walking in the woods, on our backs when they were babies and then when they started walking, they could get up and down as the mood struck. It wasn’t long before they could walk for miles and miles. It so fun to walk alongside someone who only comes up to your knee.

    Then we get our first rails-to-trails path–all paved, albeit through beautiful country. We decide to try it and the girls get about a quarter of a mile before all hell breaks loose. They hate it, it sucks away their joy. They cry and have tantrums. Its so strange. (They WILL ride their bikes on it, but walking won’t happen). We still have many of the old Indian trails, around here, and those are favorite haunts by far. I wonder if that might relate to the ant phenomenon. I don’t really care too much about ant science, except that we do have a lot of fun tossing twigs across ant paths. They really do panic just like in “A Bugs Life.” And if I ever get the chance to write my name in ants using pheromones, I’m all over that.

    1. It is the same with our kids. Up and down the back for some years and then they “outwalk” you as long as you stay away from paths wich look too much like a path. On paved surfaces they are tired in minutes, cross country they walk until hungry. For luck cross country is no problem in Germany, no very nasty plants, no dangerous animals.

  14. After finding your blog a few months ago, I resolved to take my 6 year old, 4 year old, and almost 2 year old for daily walks to destinations around my small-town home. After about 3 weeks, I had to quit because it was having such a negative effect on my mental health. Trying to keep the almost two year old safe (he’s fast and darts) was so stressful that I decided it was not worthwhile at this moment in time.

    Fortunately he’s in perpetual motion, so I don’t worry about his movement needs being met, but my 4 year old and 6 year old need more walking in their lives. Interesting theory about the more natural environment keeping him moving forward. As I’ve struggled with him moving in circles and darting behind hedges of stranger’s yards, I’ve wondered, how did hunter/gatherer mamas ever manage to gather anything with a 2 year old along ?!

  15. How long as Finn been walking? I have a 12 month old that’s been walking for 2 months now. It might be time for a trip over to the park for a hike.

    1. Since just before 10 months, same as yours! We’ve been taking him out with us, letting him down in stages. I don’t think 12 months is too early since yours has been walking for awhile — but try it and see!

  16. Cute video. I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon with my almost 3 year hold. She loves to walk and doesn’t mind going on the sidewalk around the neighborhood, but is constantly distracted by every little thing (it’s very frustrating and we don’t actually get much walking done). When I take her hiking on a trail she is more focused, enjoys herself more, and doesn’t tire as quickly. I just wish the trails weren’t so far from our house so we could use them more often!

  17. I watched all 10 minutes too , twice !! Larry and I fell into the ” good job ” thing with Max and Sophia , to Max’s detriment and Sophia’s advancement . Interesting , and now we just say ” Nice”. We loved the video , thanks for posting , and save it to share at F-B’s wedding rehearsal dinner party !! See you in Ventura , D

  18. Super cute!!!! I love watching babies careen around.

    As far as foliage and berries go – since you’re just across the water from us you must have salmonberries ripe now – they’re great for kiddos! Mine loves them. We did a similar walk yesterday but my creature is 6 1/2 and it was more run-run-run-JUMP GRAB BERRIES-run-run-run-BERRIES-run-run-run-NOOOOOO YOU DON’T NEED TO GO IN THE CREEEEEKKK!!!!!!

    They look like raspberries (they come in red and yellow) but squishier, not as sweet – they kind of remind you of a gin and tonic when you eat them.

  19. How come the video lasted only 10 minutes? I could have watched that all day! Very brave of Finn-Bob to wander into the deep, tall forest like that. Smart to “sing” your way through.

    The blog and video help explain why I am always searching out whatever green spaces, wildlife corridors, byways, lanes, alleys or arroyos I can find on my walkportations. It also explains why I run into a lot of animals and homeless encampments.

  20. Love the squeals of delightI Did a nice hike with my Finn today, to an amazing swimming hole in the Sespe. Funny to see him with a hat on still, it is all toasty here with a great breeze! Somewhere I have a good book about the “good job” thing. I remember the jist of it is “praise the effort, not the results” . Also love the hat placement! Maybe he was leaving a trail for the way home!

  21. So thoroughly enjoyable! And very “zen” must mean, relaxing and natural- boy was it. Such a sweet child. I am grandma, who doesn’t get to be very involved with our grand children so this was SO nice, very nice! Amazing how you thought maybe only your folks would care to watch it. I asked myself what drew me? I think it was that his mommy seems to be a trustworthy/honest person and one whose videos I enjoy. So I thought, I’ll check it out, and it lived up to what I hoped it would be.

    Thanks for sharing Katy B!!

    ps. I am a good friend of Dr. Catherine Rott, she met you in Tennesse at the birth conference. She loves your stuff and has me try it every chance she gets! Did the hip rotators last night-they should help me greatly-TY!! Have read your “shoe” book also! To your health KatyB!

  22. OH Katie,

    This made my heart ACHE for my kids’ childhood. Time just goes SO fast.

    Your video is absolutely precious! I loved it. Nothing beats him grabbing daddy and mommy’s hands. Awwwwww. My teeth hurt from the sweetness of it all.

    Makes me want to go explore, too. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Just had to post this on my Lactation Connection page in hopes the moms who go there will read your blog and watch for 10 min as I did. Thanks.

  24. 14 months! Feels like just a few weeks ago I was reading your entries on carrying your baby son in arms. I must have missed tons. Off to dive through your archives 🙂

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