Getting out for a hike with your children can be a great bonding experience while you enjoy the natural beauty around you, but hiking with little ones can be challenging. What do you pack? How do you keep everyone safe? How can you avoid the “are we there yet” blues? Learn how to prepare for success and get the most out of your hike.
- Start off slowly. Pick an easy hike where you can enjoy great natural features without going a very long distance. Keep your pace slow and steady, stopping frequently for an impromptu science lesson or just to enjoy the view. Kids are impressed with little things you find along the trail, not covering a huge amount of distance.
- Block off enough time. While you’re keeping a slow pace, you’ll want to make sure you’ve set aside enough time for kids to truly get the most out of the hike. Children like to explore the nooks and crannies of the trail, search for little animals, examine plants and ask lots of questions. The beauty of hiking is that it allows your children to get some exercise out in nature while they learn and fulfill their natural curiosity about the world around them.
- Keep things fun. Invent games to keep the hike interesting. Look for different kinds of plants along the trail, signs of wildlife or types of rocks. Create a scavenger hunt before you hit the trail.
- Give positive reinforcement. Little legs tire easily, so make sure you tell your children they are doing a great job, they are strong and fast (even if you’re keeping things at a slow pace). It will help give your kids the boost of energy they need to make it through the hike.
- Take breaks. Hiking is great cardiovascular exercise, and it takes a lot of energy. To prevent crankiness (in children and adults), take lots of little breaks to rest, hydrate and refuel with a snack. Let your children know when and where you’ll be taking a break to motivate them to keep going.
- Take turns leading the group. Children love to be in charge. Let your kids take turns leading the group, inventing games or teaching the rest of the family about something they found on the trail.
- Be prepared. You should always pack for all situations when you’re taking a hike, particularly when you have children in tow. Layer your clothing, especially if you’re hiking in the mountains. The temperature can change quickly as you hike up the mountain. Make sure you have food, water, wet wipes, sunscreen, bug spray, safety whistles, a GPS, etc.
- Take the “pick up your litter” challenge. With all the pollution in today’s world, it’s important to make the smallest environmental impact possible when you’re out hiking. Teach your children to clean up trash and keep the environment clean by making a challenge of it. Bring a zippered plastic bag so they can see how much litter they’ve collected just from the family.
Certainly there are many activities you can enjoy with your children out in nature, but we think hiking is one of the best. Not only is it great exercise, it can be a fabulous learning experience. And of course, we can never underestimate the value of spending time together.
If you and your children do a special activity together, have them draw or write something about it. Feel free to send the piece into school so they can show their teachers and the class. At Sparkles!, we love to see what the children do in their spare time and use it as a springboard for discussion and further learning.