Hiking offers a glimpse into a world of snuffling creatures in the brush, crawlers underneath logs and towering trees soaring above our heads. These natural places are a respite for people worldwide, including parents and families.
While leading a hike with kids is different from the typical trek, you can easily learn how to make them engaging and safe for the whole family.
Before you make your plans, you should purposefully pick a path that will engage your kids. Long hikes are great for adult exercise goals, but kids do not have the same level of energy. Their attention span is also shorter. Select a path shorter than a mile so kids do not feel exhausted after their trip.
The ideal path may also feature exciting natural landscapes like lakes, waterfalls, rivers or flower fields. You can stop and allow your children to explore and play in these environments on your journey. These delightful memories will last a lifetime!
After selecting your trail, start packing the essentials. It’s always a good idea to bring safety and cleaning supplies, but hiking with kids means including these key items:
Additionally, make sure you bring lots of food and water. Kids aren’t as in tune with their bodies as adults, so they may not know when they are dehydrated. Set timers for drink breaks to ensure everyone in your group is well-fed and nourished.
You can buy high-energy snacks packed with protein which energize kids for the path ahead. Try these snacks for a burst of energy:
Being in nature means encountering mud, rain and other materials that stain clothes. Always pack an extra outfit, including undergarments, a shirt, pants, socks and shoes. These clothing items or jackets should be in bright colors so that you can spot the kids easily. Try not to dress them in greens or camouflage!
Outside the sweltering summer months, pack hats and gloves. Your tot’s shoes must be comfortable and sturdy enough to handle everything from pebbles to large rocks that they clamber over.
Throughout your journey, always practice safety rules. Equip your kid with a small pack that holds snacks, a water bottle, a small safety kit and a safety whistle. If they do get separated from their family, they can stay nourished and call for help.
Teach your children the responsibility and power of the whistle and how to stay in one spot if lost. This gives both you and your child the confidence to navigate extenuating circumstances.
Though you may be used to forging ahead through the forest, a hike with kids is not always a straight path. Kids will want to stop and examine rocks or trees and may need more extended breaks.
While walking, enjoy the journey instead of the destination. Remember that your kids are exploring the world for the first time and every stick or bug they find is truly exciting.
Hikes are a great opportunity to welcome your child into the natural world, but you can increase their understanding with games and songs. Make a chart of local birds and give your kid a marker so they can cross off which birds they spot on the way.
They can also practice identifying their senses by creating mini poems. What does this log feel like? How does it compare to the grass? How does the river sound?
Campfire songs have also united people for hundreds of years. Strike up a traditional tune you may remember from scouts or camping trips and blaze through the forests together!
Take a more scientific approach and come into your hike with a lesson in mind. If you’re exploring a water feature, teach your child about buoyancy and how objects sink or float.
With a magnifying glass, examine the lines on leaves and branches. Can you find any insects crawling along?
Roll rocks over to see what is living in that ecosystem. The joy of finding a striking salamander is unlike no other.
When you hike with kids, you’re teaching the future adults who walk these trails, so teach them how to conserve nature now. Make sure you gather all trash on hikes and practice the mindset of “leave no trace” or trash.
This could also be a fun game if kids encounter others’ trash. Make it a challenge to find a certain number of wrappers and pack them away. However, be sure to avoid potentially hazardous materials like cigarettes.
When you hike with kids, the experience is a little different but rewarding in its own way. With preparation and engaging activities, your kids will strengthen their bond with you and the breathtaking natural world around them.