There is nothing quite like a good hike to leave one feeling energized and ready to take on the world. That said, hiking with kids has the potential to take the fun right out of the experience if you don’t do it right, leaving everyone feeling pretty negative in the end.
In order to avoid this situation and make connecting with nature a positive experience, it is important that you properly prepare before a hike with the little ones. After all, you wouldn’t head out on a play date without some preparation, so why would you do so when hiking?
Not sure how to properly prepare for a hike with the kids? The tips below should help you get started.
Head Out Early
Most children (and many parents) are on their best behavior in the mornings after a good night’s sleep. Take advantage of these good moods and the cooler weather by planning your hike for early in the day. By doing this, you will ensure everyone has plenty of energy to last through the whole adventure, and you’ll make it back to your RV before naptime, something that all parents of toddlers can agree is a huge bonus.
Nobody is happy on an empty stomach, but this is especially true for young children. Be sure to pack some kid-friendly, nutritious snacks to take on your hike. Some great options include nuts, fruit, and granola bars.
For an added bit of family fun, let the little ones help by mixing up their own baggies of trail mix. This will add to the excitement of the hike and help prevent the “hunger grumpies” that so often strike near the end of a long hike.
In addition to keeping the little ones well-fed, making sure they are staying hydrated can banish bad moods altogether. Drinking plenty of water as you venture into the wilderness will keep your young adventurers cool and free of dehydration headaches. Additionally, it will help keep their energy levels as high as possible, something that is truly important when walking long distances.
If you have trouble getting your explorer to drink enough water, consider putting it in a fun bottle and adding plenty of ice. Many children prefer straws or sports caps, so giving different kinds of lids a try could be worthwhile.
Let The Kids Lead
By allowing your kids to help in the decision-making process you will give them some ownership of the hike, making it an adventure of their own rather than something their parents are dragging them through. Let your little ones choose which way to go when you come to a fork, allow them to pause and check out interesting plants or bugs, and give them the opportunity to choose a few break times.
Ordinary play clothes won’t necessarily cut it when it comes to hiking. Therefore, it is a good idea to really give your child’s clothing some thought before you head into the woods.
Long, heavy-duty pants are almost always a good choice if you will be in an area with bugs, thorns, or a high amount of sunlight. Additionally, a hat is a hiking necessity, as it will help your tiny hiker stay cool and keep ticks away from his or her scalp. Boots or comfortable, rugged walking shoes are also a must, and a jacket may need to be brought along if there is any chance of chilly weather.
Make It a Game
Anything can be made more fun if it is presented in game form. Instead of listening to your kids whine after the first 20 minutes of hiking, introduce a game to keep them occupied. Here are some of our favorite hiking games:
- Scavenger Hunt — Before your hike, make a list of things you’d like to find while out on your hike. These might include a specific bird, a certain color of leaf, or even a particular shape of rock. Check things off as you find them while on your nature walk. Work as a group or make it a competition—just make sure to have fun as you play!
- The Alphabet Game — Make it the goal of your group to find one item that begins with each letter of the alphabet before the end of your hike. This is great for early readers as it helps instill letter sounds and keeps young minds busy.
- Follow the Leader — Choose one person to be the leader. This person gets to pick one motion—such as skipping, galloping, or leaping—and the entire group has to move along the trail behind the chosen leader, all copying that motion. After a set amount of time, the leader changes and a new person is allowed to choose the motion and lead.
Have a Destination
Many children are happy to face challenges when they know there is a reward waiting for them once the task is complete. Additionally, letting the kids know there is a set ending to a long hike can help keep bad attitudes in check. Therefore, a fun destination at the end of your hike could make your adventure a lot more exciting for everyone involved.
Some destination ideas include a swimming hole to splash in or a fun rock formation to climb on. If you are feeling especially nice, you might even bring a tasty treat along to share with everyone once the destination is reached.