Being a parent doesn’t mean that your days of having fun are “on hold”. There are still a lot of ways in which you and your children can enjoy together. Hiking is one such activity that can help children connect with the outdoors. Spending time on the trail opens a world of experiences for the whole family. Not only will your family grow closer, but you can also make great memories along the way.
However, if you are planning a hiking trip with the kids for the first time, then it can be a little intimidating. One of the most essential things to remember when hiking with little children is that the trek is not about getting from point A to point B. instead, it is more about exploring the surroundings and enjoy within the moment.
With that in mind, here are five tips that can help a parent plan a hiking adventure:
1. Choose an easy hiking trail
For the first few times, we recommend you to pick a trail that isn’t too long or too strenuous. As we discussed earlier, the hike should be about the experience. So, choose a trail that has some interesting features along the way. It can be a lake, a stream or a gushing waterfall- anything that keeps the kids occupied and makes them feel accomplished.
Once you reach the destination, set up a picnic or stop and breathe. Give the children one of their favorite snacks and let them run around and jump in the water.
2. Be flexible
For hiking with kids, flexibility should be your middle name! Remember that you are just introducing hiking to your kids. So, be gentle and allow them to explore and do things on their own. Be ready to make last-minute changes to your plan if things don’t go your way. Let them have a lot of fun because that’s the only way they will join you the next time!
3. Pack the essentials
Most adults can finish a trek even if they have forgotten to bring an important item along. But that is not the case with children. If you want things to be peaceful (and safe), we recommend you to make a list before you leave and make sure that you have all the kid-essential items with you. Don’t forget to pack these items along with camping essentials:
- Sunscreen (lots of it)
- Food, snacks, and water
- First-aid kit
- Rain gear
- Hats and sunglasses
- Bug spray
- Extra pair of clothes
You can also keep a few additional children-friendly supplies like wet-wipes, binoculars, field glasses and safety whistles for each child. If you are traveling to another country, get travel insurance to save money.
4. Implement safety rules
Use this as an opportunity to teach your children more about safety. Give each child a small pack that contains a snack and a water bottle. Make sure they have a safety whistle that can be used in case they get separated from you. Teach them to blow their whistle in 3 sharp bursts to “find Mom or Dad”.
5. Don’t rush
Kids are naturally curious, so be prepared to spend a lot of time at every single stop. They will want to touch and pick up everything along their way. This is one of the best experiences about hiking with kids as it brings them closer to the wilderness. So, don’t rush and let them enjoy things on their own pace.
Some other ways to make the most of your hiking trip:
Some other ways to have a lot of fun on your hiking trip (with no equipment), is to play a lot of games. Try storytelling and encourage the children to take part so that it becomes much more interactive. You can also try spotting an animal and then ask your kids to guess it. A basic game of ‘eye-spy’ works well too. These hiking games can keep the children occupied for a long time and can help you all bond as a family.
Since hiking gives you a lot of time to talk, make sure you encourage your young ones to speak! It works well for children who are introverts. If your child is shy, ask them open-ended questions like, “What was your favorite part during yesterday’s hike?” or “What do you want to do tomorrow?”
Life is busy and you rarely get a lot of one-on-one time with the kids. Hiking provides you with the perfect opportunity to talk to your child. Sometimes the children come up with very interesting topics that can leave you in fits of laughter or in a state of wonder!
Above all, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Remember, whether you are hiking in New York or Miami, this will not be like a traditional hike that you have experienced with adults. If you are expecting it to be like one, then please hire a babysitter and go without them.
Hiking with kids is all about having spontaneous fun moments that act as a great family bonding experience! We recommend all parents to try it out at least once before the kids grow old enough to do things on their own.
Just don’t expect things to go perfectly even if it is your 3rd or 5th time because they won’t. Go with the flow – you and your family will figure out a way to overcome the hurdles along the way. Literally!