Hiking is an excellent way of bonding with your children and gets them connected to the wilderness at a young age. However, it can also be daunting for the parent planning the hike.
To successfully go out on the trail with your kids, here are ten tips that will help you and your young appreciate and enjoy the outdoors without as much as a struggle:
Bring Adequate Amounts of Clothing
Ensure that you take sufficient amounts of clothing in case your kids get chilled while you’re out on the trail. Remember to always bring rain clothes with you, as they help with wet weather and can also be excellent windbreaking clothing. Don’t forget to bring gloves and hats for everyone since mornings can be pretty chilly. Make sure your children have enough hiking shoes; this could vary from sandals to tot-sized hiking boots depending on the terrain. Finally, remember to always pack a change of clothes for every child and leave them inside your car for your return from the hike because chances are, your kids will be muddy or wet.
Be Prepared for Anything
Preparing for anything you may encounter pretty much applies for any hike, regardless of the involvement of a child. Always see to it that you pack the 10 Essentials. Extra kid-friendly supplies are safety whistles (for each child), field guides (to point things out to your children), tissues or wet wipes, magnifying glass, camera, binoculars, and lip balm.
Keep It Easy and Feature-friendly
For the first few times, choose a hike that’s not too strenuous or too long because, for kids, going on a hike is all about the experience. Selecting a trail with features such as a waterfall, lake, stream, or something else will keep children occupied and provide them with a goal to achieve. And keep in mind, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. If your little one is more interested in getting down on their knees and hands to explore greenery, then that’s their experience for the day. Don’t fret, as there will always be a next time.
Make It Fun
Keeping your kids having fun and motivated is the key to a successful hike. Devise games that both you and your child can play out on the trail. Have your kids count wildflower species or look for any signs of wildlife (bird holes in trees, fur, scat). You can also try organizing a scavenger hunt and have them search for things that are big, small, smelly, wet, bumpy, limping—the list goes on!
Take Your Time Exploring
Time is your ally, so plan for lots of it. Children are natural explorers and want to touch and pick up everything. One of the best things about hiking is that there’s so much of the natural environment for kids to explore and examine, so be sure to give your youngsters plenty of time to get their fill of the wilderness.
Plan Frequent Energy Breaks
Hiking takes lots of energy, and energy-sapped children usually equate to cranky kids. Keep your young one motivated and happy by taking frequent small breaks for food and fluid. You can also utilize your energy breaks as a means to keep the children moving. In addition, take an assortment of snacks in case your kids become picky eaters out on the trail.
Select a Leader and Be Sure to Rotate
Children like feeling in charge, and taking turns leading the group can help them feel empowered—just be sure to rotate the leadership, else it could lead to quarrels further down the trail. By allowing your kids to lead, you can also ensure that your pace is slow enough that they can keep up.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is something parents are good at and shouldn’t leave at the trailhead. When you’re hiking, get yourself carried away with telling your kid how well they’re hiking, how fast they are, and how strong they look even if they don’t/aren’t. Children need to hear that they’re doing a fantastic job, especially if it’s their first time on a hike.
Don’t Leave Any Trace Behind
Start teaching your kids how to take care of our public lands while they’re still young. When out hiking, be sure to collect all of your trash—bringing a gallon-size zip-top plastic pack often serves well for this— and fully embrace the “pack it in, pack it out” on your trails. To further bolster this approach, you can bring a small garbage bag and have your children pick up every litter they see on your war back to your car. As you’re taking a break, be sure to check the area and see to it that everything is in its proper place. If your young one dug a hole with a stick, remember to cover it up before leaving.
Go Hiking Often
Begin a family tradition of hiking once or twice a month. Children love the sense of adventure and exploring new stuff. There’s a vast range of sights, trails, and terrain for your kids to behold. With them spending a considerable part of their time indoors, hiking once in a while is the perfect way to get them outdoors—be it a wilderness area trail or an urban park.