Enjoying the great outdoors with the family is sometimes easier said than done, especially when you have little ones. You want to share the joys, wonders, and beauties of mother nature in all her beauty with your loved ones but suddenly someone says “I’m tired!,” “I’m hungry!,” “My feet hurt!,” or the dreaded “I want to go HOME!” As parents, we must be prepared for such exclamations in various circumstances and locations. However, when you’re out in the woods on the trail and it’s a mile or two hike back to the car, you need to be prepared. Here are 13 tips for ensuring a happy hike with your kids.
- Use the Senses
Kids under 6 will appreciate the sights, smells, and textures of the environment around them if you point out certain things. Smell flowers along the path, gather interesting leaves, look for caterpillars and other insects.
- Bring Snacks and Water
After using the senses for a few minutes, the kiddos are bound to start saying they’re hungry. Give them some incentive by challenging them to find at least 5 – 10 cool animals/insects/plants before you find a good rest stop and have a nutritious energy-filled snack.
- Play Games
Have you ever tried geocaching? It’s pretty darn awesome for both kids and parents. Geocaching apps give you coordinates to find treasures pretty much wherever you are. It’s amazing just where you’ll find a cache and to see where your cache has been – sometimes from halfway around the world!
- Hiking Can Be a Four-Letter Word…
So instead of saying you’re going on a hike, try this approach: “Ready to go on an adventure?” And be sure to be enthusiastic about it. To kids, the word “hike” can sometimes bring up images of arduous death-marches. So make it fun, and exciting.
- Have the Kids Help Plan
For your next adventure, have a few options already picked out and have the kids choose which trail they want to go on. This immediately gives them a sense of control and independence but also participation in a family outing.
- Bring Along a Pal
Have your kids invite a friend to bring along. This works both for the parents (pressure’s off) and the kids (friends are cool).
- Remember to Keep a Good Pace
Slow and steady. Littles tend to stop often and explore their surroundings, even if it’s just finding a bunch of cool-shaped rocks or a bird’s feather. Mentally prepare yourself for a bit of a slower-paced hike, at least the first time, and have fun exploring with your kids.
- Take Pictures
Have yourself or your child (if s/he is able) to take some nature pictures to add to a scrapbook later on, or use them for art projects. When you get home, you can view the pictures together and talk about what you saw.
- Bring Props/Costumes
Dress up for your hike like a real adventurer whether it’s Robin Hood or Captain Hook looking for his ship. Bring walkie-talkies to make it even more fun and pails to collect treasure in.
- Go Gear Shopping
Kids love their own gear. Head to your nearest outdoors store and have your kids choose their own water bottle, backpack, and hat. Hiking with kids can be a lot more fun with CamelBaks! They are not only super practical, but kids love to wear them too.
- Bring a Map and Identification Book
Put the mobile away and take out the old-fashioned paper map. Look at the map with your kids and show them where you’ll be hiking. A bird, flower, or plant identification book is also fun and handy to have on-hand, not to mention educational.
- Don’t Forget the Necessities
Have your kids help you make a list of what you need for your adventure. A first-aid kit, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and water are must-haves.
- Have a Reward At The End
This doesn’t have to be candy or ice cream. The reward could be an amazing waterfall that you’re hiking to or a stunning lookout. Having an objective to hike to can keep everyone eager and engaged during your next adventure.
The next time you go hiking with kids, the best things you can do is to plan ahead. Build enthusiasm in your young hikers by talking about your adventuring a few days in advance. And seriously, don’t forget the snacks!