Tips for Hiking with Kids

I’ve been hiking with my three littles for over 3 years now and I’ve learned a few things. I thought I’d put together a list of tips for hiking with young kids and hopefully they’ll save you some unnecessary anxiety and unpleasant experiences while hiking with your young ones. These are in no particular order.

  1. Bring Snacks – and LOTS of them. Kids love snacks and while they are walking and using their bodies, they need to be fed. I like to have a mix of snacks from healthy to not so healthy. The not-so-healthy ones I like to save for the end and use them as bribes. See #10. “If we make it back to the car, you can have fruit snacks” Make sure, of course, that they are snacks that your kids like to eat. My 2nd child has sensory issues and only has a few snacks that he’ll eat, so we of course, fill our bags with those. Along with that, bring lots of water and be sure to clean up after yourself and bring home any garbage.
  2. Take your kids on hikes that have interesting features. Kids are more likely to enjoy hiking when there is something they are trying to find, or reach or explore. My kids absolutely love hikes with waterfalls, especially when there is a pool of water at the bottom that they can play in. Bring water shoes so that the rocks don’t hurt their little feet. My favorite hikes with waterfalls and pools to play in are Butte Creek Falls, Opal Creek Falls and Drift Creek Falls. Hikes that have little streams to throw rocks into are always fun too. We also love to find hikes with animals along the trail, Large trees to explore and lakes to walk around. We’ve done a couple hikes near the beach that I just love.
  3. Don’t expect to get a great work-out when you’re hiking with kids. Expect to go SSSLLLLOOOOWWWW. Once I got rid of the “Workout” expectations, our hikes were a lot more pleasant. If you do want a workout though, pack your bags full of water and snacks to weigh it down a bit and that’ll give you a workout. That, or putting a small child in the backpack and carry them the whole way. Just don’t expect a power-walk.
  4. Play games along the way. If you’re child is getting bored or saying the dreaded “Are we there yet?” It’s good to have a few games up your sleeves. When my husband is with us, he loves to run up ahead with the kids and hide behind trees and scare me when I get close. The kids think it’s great. This is great to do when you have another adult with them or an older kid. Another fun game to play is “I Spy” or have little scavenger hunts along the way. There have been a few hikes that we’ve counted bridges or found trees in the shape of rainbows. You know your kids best so find what works best for them and if all else fails, see #10
  5. Don’t set a time limit. Try not to schedule a hike in between other activities for the same day. Things happen and it’s best to just enjoy the day outside with the little ones without the stress of a time limit.
  6. Make lists or take pictures of things that your children find interesting along the way. When you get home, you can research them, learn what they are called and a little bit about them. That way, on the next hike, they’ll be able to spot it and know a little bit about it.
  7. Bring friends along for the fun. Your children will enjoy it a little more when they have a buddy along for the ride. Hopefully you can bring the friends mom along too and you can have a buddy. Last summer, we had a family that I loved who came along for many of the hikes. We loved it!!! They have since moved away 😦 so if anyone else wants to come with us, we’d love to have you!!
  8. Allow your kids to touch, and feel, and fully experience the nature around them. I love watching my kids explore the outdoors, climb dead trees, stomp in puddles, get dirty and have fun. I try not to put too many limits on what they can do because they learn through doing and using all their senses. Of course, I don’t allow them to kill plants and damage nature, but if it’s already on the ground, not connected to any living source, I say go for it. Touch it, smell it, play with it and love on it, then leave it for someone else to enjoy! We rarely bring anything home except for memories and photos!!
  9. Enjoy the journey. Turn your phones off (let’s be serious, there is hardly any cell phone reception anyways) except for taking pictures, let your kids run free, and breathe the fresh air. Hiking is so good for you. Enjoy this time with your awesome kids and make memories!!
  10. If all else fails, bring bribes. This could be special treats, or a trip through the McDonalds Drive-thru for ice cream or cookies at the end. I absolutely LOVE hiking and will do just about anything to make my kids come along and, at the very least, fake that they love it because when they’re all grown up, I want them to have memories and traditions to look back on.

 

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