In your past life, did you love hiking but now you have kids and think it’s impossible? It’s not! You don’t have to abandon the joy of the trails just because you have little ones. Most kids naturally love the outdoors and are drawn to wide open spaces, so why not take them along the next time you want to follow your favorite trail? With a little extra planning, and these 7 tips for hiking with kids, you can be prepared so that your kids can be taught how to hike the correct way and actually enjoy it too!
In a world full of high tech kids, pulling them away to “walk down a path outside” can be a trying task, trust me I know!! But I’ve learned that with the right planning and techniques, my kids have learned to love the trails, and I bet yours will too. Hiking can not only be a fantastic way to learn about nature and the world around us, it’s an even better way to gather the whole family together to be outdoors, away from the screens, and do an activity that’s great for our bodies and minds. One of the secrets to getting your kids to love a simple task such as hiking, is to get them involved and invested in it– along with being prepared. These 7 tips that will really make hiking fun for you, as well as your kids!
1. Pack Smart
This is a given with kids anywhere you go, but even more so when you are out in nature. Being prepared on a hike is the difference between having a fun time and the worst time ever. Trust me, I’ve been there!! Before you even leave the house, make sure you have some essentials with you so you can be ready.
With these hiking essentials, you’ll be prepared for nearly anything!
-Plenty of water
-The right snacks: nuts, dried berries, granola bars, string cheese, fruit, trail mix (especially with some chocolates thrown in!), or crackers are all good choices that will rebuild lost energy as you go
-First aid kit
-Map or GPS (your phone should be good unless you are going way out where you don’t get a signal)
-Hats for sun coverage
-A hiking carrier if you have little ones is always a great idea!
2. Pick the right trail
For at least the first few times you head out, be sure to select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous – remember that for kids, the hike is about the experience. Try picking a trail that has some features – like by a lake, stream, or waterfall – that will keep kids occupied and give them a goal to reach. And remember, it’s about the journey not the destination. If your child is more interested in getting down on his or her hands and knees to explore the ground, that’s ok too! Remember, there will always be another time.
3. Dress for success
The key to dressing kids for hiking is simple. Think: layers, layers, layers! Depending on where you live and what season it is, consider taking some extra clothing in case your child gets cold while out on the trail. If you live in a place where it rains, think of packing some simple and light rain clothes – just in case! Most importantly, make sure your kids have adequate hiking shoes or sneakers, depending on the terrain this could range from sandals to hiking boots. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes for each child and leave them in the car for your return from the trail – chances are your children will be wet or muddy! Again, trust me on this one! Having extra clothes for your kids is always a good idea.
4. Rotate who’s line leader
All kids love feeling like they are in charge, so save yourself some fighting, whining and fits and let your kids take turns leading everyone. This allows each child to feel empowered and invested in the hike, and can save you much complaining too. Also, when you let the kids lead, you are also making sure that the pace is slow enough so that everyone can keep up.
5. Emphasize fun
Adults can hike for the sake of hiking, but kids? Nope nopers. They need SOMETHING to do, something to keep their interest. Consider (seriously consider!!!) brining an activity to do while you are out, like a scavenger hunts (either for items or just a check list) or geocaching allow your kids to have a reason for their journey and will hold their attention further than just walking along a trail. Geocaching is our personal favorite and if you’ve never done it, check out everything you’ll need to know here!!
6. Plan for plenty of breaks
When hiking with kids, plan on stoping often for water and snack breaks. Sometimes just tossing rocks in the water or relaxing by a river reading a short book is enough to reenergize everyone. It’s important to take some time to stop and listen too. This is something that kid’s rarely do, and it can be quite a bit of fun if you can get them to just sit and enjoy being outside.
7. Resize your expectations
Know that with your kids, you may not cover as much ground as you thought, but you’ll have a more relaxing hike if you’re not trying to drag reluctant kids up the trail in an effort to log miles. Beef you go out, set that milage expectation aside and just be ready to get as far as you can and listen to your kids to know how far that is. Remember it’s really more about the experience as a family than about how far you go.
Have you ever gone hiking with your kids? Did they enjoy it? Mine do like is, as long as we have something to do like geocaching, then they are all about it! What tips would you add to the mix?