Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Just a Boy and his Sled (Finding the "One Thing" to make Hiking Fun)

I'm always amazed by how the mood on a winter hike improves with four simple words: "Let's bring the sled!"

Just a boy and his sled 

We were recently blessed with a large dump of snow in the city and I got the idea to go for a walk in our local ravine after school one afternoon. Surprisingly though, my "great" idea was not met with the enthusiasm I'd been looking for. I might as well have suggested we go shopping for the excitement my suggestion received! (And to clarify, my kid doesn't love shopping, in case yours does and you don't see the problem here.)

So, back to the sled, I suggested we bring my son's sled on our walk in the ravine and the mood suddenly changed! I suddenly had enthusiasm, I had excitement, and I had a very eager boy who wanted to go tromping through knee-deep snow with me for an hour. (Even though it was well below -15C, possibly colder!)

This boy loves his sled.

Why does a simple sled change everything? 

It's all about the promise, the hope, and the expectation that the child is going to get to ride the sled. It's about looking forward to the fun parts of the hike, thinking ahead to the hills you'll find, and of the enjoyment there will be riding the sled down an epic steep hill the child hopes you'll find.

On this particular hike we actually didn't really find any hills. There was one large hill at the beginning as we descended down into the ravine, but that was it. We hiked along the bottom of the ravine, and then we climbed out, and walked back home.

Shockingly though, my son was happy to simply pull his sled along for the entire hour-long hike. He was happy because I'd allowed him to bring a friend along. His friend "boggan."

My son and his friend "Boggan"

A sled gives a child a friend 

I recently read the book "The Wish Tree" to my son and can not recommend this book enough. It's all about a boy and his sled, "Boggan," and the adventures they have traveling through the snowy forest together one day, meeting and helping animals along the way. The boy and sled are best friends, and they have a beautiful day playing together in the woods. 

I couldn't help smiling on our recent walk when my son actually started calling his sled "Boggan," and started talking to it as if it were a friend. And note my son is 9, so it really was a special moment for a child who's long outgrown imaginary friends and a lot of the childhood play young kids experience.

Sometimes it's just that "One Thing"

For my son, that "one thing" was a sled. He was blissfully happy because he had his sled with him on our walk. It gave him a fun companion and he had fun running madly down the trail, pulling the sled, and watching it get covered in snow.

When he was younger, we'd bring his balance bike along on every walk and we experienced similar bliss.

It can be as simple as that "one thing" that will set the mood and make the kids happy.

For us on this trip, it was a sled.

The challenge going forward is making sure we always find "that one thing" before heading out on our adventures.

We found the "one thing" that turned our hike into a magical adventure

For more inspiration and tips on how to motivate kids on the trail, check out my recent story here: Adventures in Motivation on the Ski Trail. 

Other Recommended Reading 

Disclaimer: This story is not a book review or advertisement. I was not asked to review the "Wish Tree," and honestly, we just borrowed it from our local library. The link to the book in this story is an affiliate link for Amazon.ca. If you want to purchase the book, consider using the link and I might make a few cents to put towards my next cup of coffee. 


  1. The second of my three sons is very much like yours - he loves taking one thing with him on our outdoor adventures, and it varies a lot, although he has a soft spot for his older brother's fire steel! Gotta get him the Wish Tree book too, maybe for next winter though, as we don't get much snow in Ireland.
    Popping over from the Raising Outdoor Kids FB group ;)

    1. Lovely to hear from you Annette. My son is very sensitive so I think it helps to have something special with him on outdoor adventures. I need to buy my son the book as well. We just borrowed it from our local library.