Hiking with kids can be a rewarding and fun experience or it can lend up being an outing filled with meltdowns deep in the forest that you immediately regret. To increase your chances of having the best hiking experience possible with kids in tow make sure your hike is properly planned, you are well packed, and you include game play.
How to Plan a Great Hike with Kids
Timing is Everything
Don’t pick nap time to go for a long family hike unless you enjoy carrying tired kids! Try to go after waking up and a good meal that will sustain them for awhile.
Plan Hike Suitable to Kids Ages
Something that has you scaling boulders or whacking your way through bushes 5 feet tall will not appeal to short legs. Try hiking on bike paths or wide and well marked forest trails that allow for some freedom to roam and are easily accessible as first.
Have a Goal Destination
Children are not as impressed by Fall colours and fresh air as adults are; they tend to miss the smaller joys of hiking and need more inspiration. Plan a hike to a water fall they can walk behind, a creek they can play in a corn maze to get lost in, a look up high in the air or even oatmeal cookies at the end of the trail and the kids will be motivated to continue hiking.
Stop a lot along your hike to smell the roses – or look at the leaves, find the chipmunk or drink in the scenery. Kids will welcome the break. If you pass a lake, stop and look for fish or frogs, if there is an old stump on the trail take some photos of everyone sitting on it, or if kids get hungry or thirsty take a 5 minute time out and have a rest to refuel.
Bring a Friend
Time flies when you are having fun and kids have the most fun when they have friends to play with, skip with, find sticks with and run ahead with. Bringing friends for you and the kids will keep the momentum going on a longer hike as well as add enjoyment to the hike as active time outdoors is best when shared.
Quit on a Happy Note
Don’t hike until exhaustion hits but rather try to plan the hike so it ends with them wanting a bit more. Ending on a happy note will do a lot to ensure a fun hike and also increase the chances of a second hike in the near future.
What to Pack When Hiking With Kids
No need to stuff a backpack full just in case you get lost for a week in the woods, but having just a few essentials on hand can make for a much better experience in the woods. Here are just a few things you might want to bring along.
High energy snacks like these Chocolate Power Balls or Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Small First aid kit with Band-Aids, antiseptic spray for scrapes and tissues for runny noses
Sunglasses or hats for sunny days
Bug spray and sunscreen if you will be out for a while and need to re apply.
Toilet paper for the inevitable potty breaks in nature
Small bag to carry out all garbage
GPS or compass if you are unsure of your route. Getting lost with kids is no fun.
Change of socks, shorts, t-shirt in case you find a creek to play in
A light jacket in case it gets chilly
A whistle for the kids to wear is great for safety if they wander off
Wear running or closed toe shoes, but maybe pack water shoes
Games To Play When Hiking With Kids
To keep the kids engaged and happy while they are hiking have a few games you can play on the go, not only is it more fun for the kids, but it keeps them moving without even realizes how much they are hiking.
Follow the Leader – everyone gets a turn being the leader and breaking new trail.
Treasure Hunt – also known as geocaching – download the app from www.geocaching.com and go to “Find Nearby Cache” – instant navigation to hidden treasures all around you.
Eye Spy – perfect in a new area with so many great things to see and point out.
Simon Says – Simon Says walk backwards, stick an arm in the air, whistle and walk at the same time. Simon can be a great motivation or keep moving.
Bird watching, Rock counting, or Flower picking are all great ideas to keep the kids interested in the nature surrounding you.
Don’t let the kids lack of enthusiasm from the couch keep you at home and indoors, insist you all go for a hike. If you are properly planned, sufficiently packed and ready to play the kids just might insist you go for another hike next weekend.
This time of year there are so many Harvest Festivals, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, Fall leaves and great hikes, it is a perfect time to get outdoors with the kids and enjoy them all!
Deb Lowther is a mother of 3 daughters who, when not running after the kids, is running in the trails. She contributes Family Health articles to many websites and magazines and ensures her own family has fun while eating healthy & staying active. Find more inspiring tips on her website Raising Healthy Kids, and Facebook, follow Deb’s new passion Boomer Nutrition as well as her column on Erica Ehm’s YummyMummyClub column Family on the Run. Follow Deb on both Twitter @Deb_Lowther and Pinterest.