Hiking with kids can be an amazing time if you do it right. We’ve put together a list of the 10 best tips for hiking with kids.
Preparation is Key
Packing your daypacks prior to arriving at the trail-head is a time saver that will get you and your family on the trail sooner. If you can arrive ready to get out of the car and get on the trail as soon as possible, then you have less time for them to overthink hiking. Instead of taking 10-20 minutes situating your items, gear, and putting sunscreen on, try doing all of that prior to arriving at the trail-head. Most likely everyone will get a better start to your adventure.
Let the kids choose
Give your kids a choice between several different types of hikes. Do they want to go on a hike where they can climb on rocks? Or would they rather hike to a lake or along a river so they can throw rocks and sticks in the water? Letting your kids help choose the hike will get them more excited in going.
Bring snacks….lots of them
When hiking with kids, make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks. Allowing frequent breaks for a sip of water or a small snack will keep them energized. We have purchased kid sized hydration packs for our kids to carry their own water and snacks. They love having their own pack, and it actually helps us keep plugging along with fewer stops because they can sip as they hike. If your kids are too young to carry their own pack, then stopping frequently to let them take a sip out of your hydration pack, or allow them to have a small snack will keep them going. Suckers are another treat to bring with you on a hike. Suckers last longer and tend to keep kids occupied so they keep moving. Having plenty of snacks is highly recommended.
Assign a job
Assign your kiddo a job to do while on the trail, it will give them a sense of duty and responsibility. If you bring your dog with you, let them hold the leash. Have your kids be the navigator and carry the GPS. As the navigator, let them be in front and be the leader on the trail. As they get older, teach them to use a pocket knife, and have them carry it. When you stop for a snack, let them cut the apple. Encourage them to use binoculars and describe what they see in detail. It can give them more appreciation for nature by seeing it up close.
Let them bring a friend
Our kids enjoy hiking more when they are sharing the experience with a friend. They chat all the way up, and they love to compare snacks when we stop for a break. When arriving at your destination, watch as they scamper off to explore the great outdoors together.
Kids enjoy playing games. So incorporate games along the way. One of our family favorites and go to games is eye spy. Eye spy is a game for all ages. A variation of the eye spy game is to see who can spot a specific animal first, like a squirrel or deer. When you get to a good stopping point along a river or at a lake, enjoy a friendly rock skipping competition and see who can get the most skips. Another favorite is picking a target, such as a tree trunk or a large rock, to throw a pine cone or snowball at. Our family loves anything with a little competition.
Dress your kids in layers
Be sure to dress your kids in layers and pack extra warm clothes. It’s much better to add or remove a layer of clothing than having to hear them whine or complain about it the entire hike. A daypack can easily hold those extra layers, as well as your water and snacks.
Hiking baby carrier
When hiking with babies or toddlers, a baby carrier is a must. A hiking baby carrier is great way to introduce your kiddo to the outdoors, but make sure that it is comfortable for both you and your little one. If either of you are uncomfortable with it, then it could dampen your hiking experience.
Have a reward at the end of the hike
Let your kids know that there is a reward when you reach your destination, or when the day is done. Kids need that carrot to strive for and knowing that there is an ice cream cone or some other treat waiting for them at the end of the trail, will keep them going just a little bit more. Some may call it bribery but in order for the entire family to enjoy a day hiking in nature…it’s so worth a little extra convincing!
Hopefully these tips on hiking with kids come in handy. Venture onward!