Hiking is an outdoor activity that almost everyone can appreciate and even small children can take part in the adventure. Kids, though, can be challenging and unless you are taking a very short walk a little bit of planning can go a long way to make the experience pleasant for all.
The best way to ensure you have a terrible time on the trail is to not motivate the kids, not have fun, not fuel the kids with food, and not inspire them. I have never succeeded in completing each item on this list in one outing, but I have taken hikes without snacks (don't ever try this or you will be tortured) and occasionally without my patience (yikes). This is a list of what not to do and what you should do instead. Accomplish the opposite of how not to hike with kids and the odds of a delightful adventure skyrocket.
How NOT to hike with kids (and the right way)
Don't feed them
Instead: Bring snacks and lots of them. First, give the kids a full meal before you head out. You might be tempted to stop there, but don't. Bring lots of snacks, because kids love to munch while hiking and they are not shy when it comes to letting you know. In fact, hiking induced whining frequently happens and it's nothing a little snack can't cure. Keep the kids fed and you'll keep the adults happy. Trust me on this; bring more snacks than you think you'll need.
Snack Suggestions, finger foods work best:
- Fruits â?? apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, tangerines, blueberries
- Nuts â?? cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, trail mix
- Veggies â?? carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers
- Dairy â?? string cheese, yogurt tubes, cubed cheese
- Crackers, pretzels, granola bars
Another idea, and a fun one is to give the kids a snack before hiking, pack a lunch, and have a picnic as part of hike. A picnic is a nice reward for hiking hard and will give you and the children a boost for the return trip.
Don't Have any Fun
Instead: Bring friends, play games, and explore.
- Friends â?? any hike instantly becomes an awesome hike if friends are invited. Hiking with friends strengthen friendships, friends teach us new things, and conversations are always better with friends.
- Games â?? Any game is a good game. My kids love to play games on the trail. This is the neat thing about kids: they are enthusiastic about everything. Our current favorite is the question game of Would you rather. To play this game all you need is patience and a creative mind. Scavenger hunts and I Spy are fun too.
- Explore â?? Perhaps the most exciting aspect of hiking is trail and area exploration. Let the kids stop, look and listen. What do they see and hear? Teach your children what you know about the plants and animals nearby. Pick a trail where you can hike over rocks or under bridges. Obstacles are a sure-fire hit with little ones. Even better pick a hike that has a water feature such as a creek or waterfall and then spend as much time as you can playing in the water.
Don't Be Flexible or Have Patience
Instead: Stay composed, be calm, and go with the flow.
Children can sometimes be unpredictable (surprise!). Knowing this and expecting the unexpected can help keep the hike lighthearted and enjoyable for everyone. Keep hikes within everyone's ability and think ahead how you will handle certain situations (or emergencies) when they arise. Have a back-up plan and don't fret if you need to end a hike early. The key is to keep everyone happy on the trail.
A hike with kids can be a challenge, however; with a little preparedness certain trials can be avoided or minimized. Do bring snacks. Do bring friends. Do have fun. Do explore. Do play. Do be flexible and remain calm.
-Traci Lehman is a wife and mom who shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close.