LOS ANGELES — Ready for your mind to be blown? Seven-year-old twins Matthew and Arabella Adams have summited Mount Baldy 54 times. That’s an awe-inspiring number for any hiker, much less a 7-year-old. Not only that: The first time the twins did the hike was at age 3½.
Nancy and Shaun, the twins’ parents, both work full-time while the kids go to public school, but the fam prioritizes these trips. “When we were kids, our parents took us camping, so we have always enjoyed the outdoors,” Shaun says. “After having kids, we shouldn’t stop doing what we enjoy doing. Hiking is an activity the entire family can enjoy.”
How did the Adamses motivate Matthew and Arabella to go farther? Did the twins whine and ask for TV at mile two? What gear did they use?
Turns out, they started early and never gave up. The couple was trekking with one baby each in carriers when the kids were a month old, transitioning them to independent hiking by age 2½. As Arabella and Matthew grew into more confident hikers, the family started tackling more challenging outdoor adventures, like Shasta and Baldy.
The Adamses go on four hikes a month, and more when they are on vacation. “(It’s) our way of getting away from everything and spending quality time together as a family,” Shaun says. The kids love it so much they don’t whine about anything while on the trail — especially not TV.
Here’s the Adamses’ advice for inducting your little ones into that #hikelife.
Make them the architects of the hike
“Having them feel like big kids and be part of the planning is a very important aspect that many parents overlook,” Shaun says. Arabella and Matthew sketch out maps of the planned hike, decide when they should take breaks and choose the length of the hike.
Start small and local
Begin with half-mile hikes, Nancy advises, and progress to two miles. “We did a lot of hikes in the local mountains up until they were about 3½,” Shaun says. “The Hollywood sign was a frequent trail because it was wide and perfect for them to hike.”
Transform a hike into a science field trip
The parents encourage the twins to look for and examine ladybugs, lizards and sunflowers using small magnifying glasses they bring in their backpacks. Talking about clouds can also help them want to hike higher. (I recommend “The Cloud Book” by Tomie dePaola to teach kids about the different types of clouds.)
Empower them with backpacks
“(The twins) usually carry the same percentage of their body weight as we do. So if we are carrying 20% of our weight in our packs, they do the same,” Shaun says. This action gives them responsibility for their own possessions. (Arabella and Matthew have Osprey Jet backpacks, which are very comfy at the hips.)
Don’t forget the snacks
The twins always have their favorite trail snacks in their backpacks, including Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, trail mix, fresh fruit and popcorn.
Bring a fuzzy friend
Matthew and Arabella have Tiger and Ruffy, their well-weathered stuffed animals, in their backpacks for all their adventures, even on the way up to Baldy in the snow. Having a companion is comforting and gives them someone to take care of and encourage.
Set a fun topic for the hike
“Hiking provides us a chance to chitchat,” Shaun says. The family addresses questions like, “Why do they call him Bigfoot? Does he have a big foot? Is it a boy or girl? How tall is he?” Shaun says he enjoys following the twins’ thinking and wild imaginations.
Ask the Mountain Fairy to visit
When the twins were 3, Nancy and Shaun invented the Mountain Fairy, a magical creature like Santa who delivered a little toy to the kids at the summit of each mountain. The Mountain Fairy, Nancy says, shops exclusively at Dollar Tree and the 99 Cents store, mostly awarding books, balls, toys, drawing pads and tchotchkes. “They still believe it,” Nancy says.
Let your kids pick dinner
After each hike, the twins choose the dinner location. They love eating Italian food, including salad, spaghetti and pizza, or burgers and fries.
Talk about hiking when you’re not hiking
“Some of the twins’ favorite moments include eating a mosquito by accident, their teeth falling out and not having a pillow to put it under for the tooth fairy, swimming in icy cold water and excitement when they see little animals,” Shaun says. Get the kids enthused about their next hike by hanging a map on their bedroom wall. Circle the peaks you want to summit and talk about trails they can try when they’re older, or when traveling further to national parks and other countries.
Set goals and be proud of their accomplishments
“We tell the kids if you are determined enough to reach the top of the mountain, you can accomplish anything in life,” Shaun says. The twins have identified Everest as a potential goal. And now they’re leading the hikes and encouraging their parents, which gives nearby hikers a chuckle and makes their parents proud. “They call me the little caboose,” Nancy says, laughing.
I’m wowed not only by the goal-setting and gumption that Nancy and Shaun are showing Arabella and Matthew, but also the love for nature they’re teaching. “[The twins] always want to take care of the little creatures,” Nancy says. “If there’s a bug on the trail, move him off to the side. If there’s a flower, don’t step on it; stay on the trails. They know that’s part of nature and you can’t destroy it.”
Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service
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