Today I’d like to welcome Joe, from Nature Rated with a guest post about hiking with kids. Welcome, Joe!
Do you enjoy hiking but don’t know how to get your kids excited about nature?
Hiking, like many outdoor activities, is a great way to connect with loved ones. There are plenty of topics to talk about as you mingle with nature. It is the perfect time to discuss school, what you see, and your kids’ lives in general. Hiking is also an excellent way to exercise and unplug from electronics.
Encouraging children to go with you on a hiking trip can sometimes be daunting. If you have ever tried hiking with children and wondered why they weren’t as excited by the prospect as you are – I’ve been there!
Worry no more because the tips below will allow you change your story and get your kids hiking in no time.
Planning the Right Path is Instrumental to Your Success
Do your research before packing up and going for a family hike. Talk to friends and local nature groups to find the best kid-friendly parks in your area. Do some online research – chances are a blogger has written a detailed trail guide.
Look for trails with plenty of room for your kids to walk their own weaving path. Avoid trails with cliffs or sheer edges. You want to instill confidence on those first few trips, so make it safe. Trail ratings are usually based on the technical difficulty and steepness of the trail, rather than scenery and other important factors. Be your own judge and try out the trails as a family to see how things work out.
Take Your Time
Hiking with kids means you won’t be able to stick to a tight timeline. You should allow plenty of time for the trip. Your kids should have enough time to smell the roses, feel the tree bark, and admire insects. The interesting part of a hike for children is the opportunity to find rocks, pick up leaves, and explore the natural world.
If you say things like “Don’t touch that. Don’t look at that” or “Come on. Hurry up,” you can rest assured that no one will have a good time and your kids won’t want to go hiking when you ask. When you give your kids time to explore, every season brings about new and interesting discoveries. Autumn is a great time to collect colorful leaves. Spring is perfect for finding tracks in squishy mud. You may cover a shorter distance, but isn’t the journey more important than the destination?
Encourage Your Kids to Notice the World Around Them
Doing prior research in the library and on educational websites will equip you with all the information you need about particular trails. Your study can focus on specific areas like types of trees, wildflowers or insects during the hike. This will go a long way in helping encourage your kids to take note of what’s in their surroundings. It’s like being in class, only more fun. Look for interesting things during the hike and point them out to your children. Indulge in fun games like scavenger hunts, and be sure to ask questions about what your kids are noticing when you’re hiking. I also recommend bringing a magnifying glass; it’s great for making small fires or looking at insects on a hike.
Allow Your Hiking Kids to Take the Lead
Things that grab an adult’s attention, like a scenic view or waterfalls, may not have the same effect on children. Don’t push your kids to like what you find interesting. Encourage them to identify things along the trail that are fun for them. Discovering things on their own like leaves, bugs and oddly shaped rocks will pique their interest. Ask them question of such things. For instance, “Why do you think the tree fell down?” “Where does the stream start and end?” You will be delighted at the creative answers they give.
End the Hike on a Happy Note
The key to achieving this is simple – turn back before your kids get tired and cranky. Your kids may work hard to keep up with the adults, but it’s important that you keep track of the distance and time. Allow for frequent breaks along the way so that they can rest and drink water before resuming the hike. Loop hikes are a good idea if you don’t want to have to decide when to turn around. A good supply of water and snacks will give your kids a burst of energy on the way back. Bringing snacks you don’t usually have around the house may make the experience more fun for the kids. Opt for healthy snacks like granola bars, nuts, and seeds. Convincing them that healthy snacks are the way forward is another matter!
For more inspiration on getting outside with kids, check out these posts:
Have you tried hiking with your kids? We’d love to hear about your kids hiking experiences in the comments.
I'm Joe. I run Nature Rated. I love spending time in the outdoors. Whenever daily life gets me down, I head to the nearest lake or river with my kayak and my camera, and I spend time recharging my batteries. I hope you'll love my no fluff, to-the-point reviews and that they'll help you choose the right gear for your next adventure!