Hiking with our kids can be a wonderful way to share and bond as a family. With most kids currently out of school and very few public facilities open, we wanted to provide a few tips to help you get outside and active with your children. And what better way to practice social distancing and promote learning at the same time than a hike in the great outdoors. There are many factors to consider when planning your own outdoor pursuits, but even more so when hiking with kids. Proper planning and preparation will enhance your experience and ensure a positive adventure for the entire family.
1. Plan an Appropriate Hike
This is likely the most important factor in your children’s enjoyment of the experience. Although we may personally want to summit a mountain peak or crush some miles for a great workout, it is essential to consider the little ones and their desires – and then plan the adventure around their interests.
Our motto is: don’t plan an adventure where we take our children along, but instead, plan an adventure where our children take us along. This is the single biggest recommendation we can provide for hiking with your children with the goal of cultivating an enjoyment of the outdoors.
2. Play Games and Learn Along the Way
Since kids tend to have shorter attention spans, games and learning activities are great ways to keep them engaged. We frequently use these times to teach them about plants, animals, geology, or local history. As we are all adjusting to out-of-school learning, this is truly an opportunity to teach our children in nature’s classroom. Even if we personally don’t have a strong knowledge of certain topics, we can use it as a chance for everyone to learn.
We recommend bringing along some plant, animal or insect identification books or downloading one of the many apps available for this purpose. We also like to do a little pre-trip research and save that information into the notes feature on a phone to read and reference during the hike. Encourage kids to take photos to document the experience through their eyes or bring along some binoculars and search and identify local bird species. All of these tools will draw their attention away from the fact that they are hiking and keep them engaged and entertained for the day.
3. Choose a Scenic Hike
Even if you live in the city, you can try and find a local park that will ignite your children’s imagination. Select hikes with scenic views or a standout destination. Think waterfalls, vistas, wildlife, lookouts and bodies of water. These provide kids with a feeling of accomplishment and make the trip all the more memorable for them and the entire family.
4. A Few Other Tips
Take plenty of snacks and water. Dress comfortably and wear appropriate shoes for the terrain you are going to be exploring. Also, take an additional set of clean clothes in the car for them to change into after the hike. They tend to want to get dirty and play and we encourage them to do so along the way. Expect to take more breaks than you might when hiking without your children. It’s a good opportunity for them to check out the surroundings and gives them a moment to take a breather. Remember, the idea is to cultivate a love of the outdoors and to share quality time together.