By Nancy Baker, Co-Founder of ChildMode.
The views expressed in this post are those of a contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of the Nanny Institute.
Hiking with kids is not only fun but healthy. Experiencing and understanding nature is important for a child’s development and spending time outdoors reduces screen time. While it’s easy to go on a hike, the unpredictability of kids can make you wonder whether you should strap on your backpack. While hiking with kids can be challenging, it’s rewarding and here are some tips to help you achieve a fun and memorable hike.
Keep it Easy and Child-Friendly
It is crucial to keep the hike easy and child-friendly, especially if you are hiking with your kids for the first time. Choose a hike that won’t be too long or too tedious because, for children, hiking should be more about the experience than getting a workout.
To enhance the experience for your children, choose a trail with some features like a waterfall, stream, lake, or something else. The aim should be to keep your children occupied and give them a reason to keep going.
Make the hike more about the journey and less about the destination. If your kids love to get down on their hands and knees, allow them to explore the undergrowth while on the hike. It is important to be realistic and save energy for the return trip.
To make sure that your children are comfortable and safe, so make sure to dress them in the right gear. Buy them a good pair of hiking boots with the proper grip for safe hiking so they can manage mud, slopes and other terrains.
Dress kids in layers, especially if it is shady or chilly. Always prepare for any weather and pack rain clothes or sunscreen. Don’t forget gloves and hats, as even summer mornings can be cool. Pack a change of clothes for each of the kids for the return home as its likely they’ll get wet or muddy on the hike.
Plan Your Time and Prepare for Anything
Kids are eager to explore. They will pick up and touch anything they see, which is the best thing about hiking. Plan for lots of time for your kids to discover and examine the natural world.
When it comes to hiking, you have to be prepared. Don’t forget to pack essentials like water and snacks, sunscreen, rain gear, first-aid kit, bug spray, hats, and extra clothes. Include kid-friendly supplies like tissues or wet wipes, binoculars, lip balm, field guides, magnifying glass, camera, and a safety whistle for every child.
Plan Energy Stops
Hiking requires energy and kids who are energy-sapped become cranky. To keep kids happy and motivated, plan for frequent stops to rest and take breaks for snacks and fluids.
You can pick a specific spot and tell the kids that will be the location of a break, which can help keep them motivated while on a hiking trail. This will make them eager for the break and eager to continue after the snack. You don’t have to prepare a gourmet meal; you can always pack simple things like granola bars, graham crackers, or fruit snacks.
Rotate Leadership Among the Kids
Children like being in charge. During the hike, have each child take a turn as the trail leader, guiding the hiking group. This will help them feel empowered. To ensure equality and avoid arguments down the trail, make sure to rotate leadership among them. Allowing the kids to lead will also help them set or keep a manageable pace.
Use Positive Reinforcements
When hiking, we recommend that you compliment how well your kids are hiking. You can comment on how steady they are, how they are good at finding birds or other animals, or how well they stay on the path. Kids tend to do a better job when they hear how well they’re doing, especially if this is their first-time hiking. Positive reinforcement helps children gain confidence and learn when they are exhibiting desired behaviors.
Make it Fun
The key to hiking is keeping the children motivated and having fun. To encourage a positive experience, come up with games that you can play with the kids while on the trail. You could have them look for signs of wildlife like bird holes, scat, and fur or have them count wildflower species. You can also engage in a scavenger hunt where the children can find things that are big, small, smelly, bumpy, wet, or brown.
With a bit of planning and effort, hiking with children can be a lot of fun and a great family tradition.