Hiking with Kids
Summer weather has arrived, and it is the perfect time to gather up the family and head out for a hike! Today I want to give some tips and suggestions when hiking specifically with little kids. In previous years, our family did not do much hiking, partly because i didn't know if all those little legs could handle it! But this last year we have gone on several hikes (some short, some quite long and difficult) with our children (ages 5, 4, 3, 1) and I realised it isn't impossible! In fact, it is a lot of fun! And that said,
Have Fun! I think this is the most important thing when hiking together as a family. I try to approach almost anything I do with the kids as a grand adventure (and it really is!) and try to get everyone really hyped up about it. And when everyone gets tired half-way there, make up a game!
Play Games! When you sense your kids starting to get tired and cranky, try changing things up with a game or song. One of my kids favorite games is the rabbit and fox game. I become a fox and chase the kids, trying to 'eat' them. They love it, and somehow dead tired legs have energy to run and grumpy faces turn to smiles. Be careful when running on a trail, we usually reserve this game for smoother paths, or going up hills, so there is less tripping! We like to sing and make up songs about the things around us. We once made up a silly song to help us remember the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees!
Bring Band-aids and Snacks! There will probably be at least a few trips and falls (little kids seem to trip over their feet all the time!) and giving out band-aids can turn tears about an owie into proud adventure wounds. Also, having snack and of course lots of water breaks during a hike can refresh and lift spirits as everyone happily munches away.
Encourage! Encouraging your kids all through the hike goes a long way. My kids tend to complain a lot and so we play games where we see who can go the longest without complaining, and the winner gets a big high five! We teach the kids that when they get tired, it means their legs and heart are getting stronger, and they will be able to go farther and longer next time! Let the kids know they are doing a great job, and they are becoming grand adventurers!
Have a Destination! Sometimes it helps to have an end goal, or various mini goals for the kids to look forward to. Talk about the waterfall at the end, or the view at the top of the hill, or the snack break when we get 1/2 way there. Giving them something to look forward to can help the more time go quicker, and keep them excited.
Observe and Learn! I like to take every opportunity when we are out in nature to learn something new. Once on a hike in Alabama, we came across all these little snails on the path. We took the time to stop, look at them, pick them up, and ask questions. Sometimes there will be questions your kids ask that you will realise you have no clue and will have to look up the answer later (like "are baby snails born?"). We observe the kinds of trees around us, the moss on the sides, the animals living in them. We observe the kinds of rocks, the lichen and fungi, and holes we find in the ground. We look for wild edible plants we know and take pictures of others to look up later.
Have Patience! Even though family hiking is fun, there may be whining, tempers or fighting moments. Take a deep breath, deal with them, and move past them. Try to end the hike on a high note. Take time to explore and enjoy the time together! Remember, this is much more than just getting to your destination. Dip your feet in the water, collect leaves, pick a few flowers.
Take Some Moments for Yourself! Don't make it all about the kids. I know that sounds funny, but sometimes as an adult we are limited in our adventuring because we are taking little ones along. That is OK, but if possible, take a bit of time to do something fun for yourself. If you are hiking with another adult, the kids can enjoy a snack while you sneak off for a couple minutes to climb to the top of the waterfall. Or that perfect climbing tree? Wow your kids with your tree climbing abilities. Make it fun for everyone, yourself included. That way everyone will want to do it again!
Build Family Unity! A three mile hike up a mountain was hard for all of us, but we did it, and we accomplished it together! We learned that we could do what seemed impossible at the time and made a great family memory because of it. Take pictures of your hike to remind everyone of the times you had together, and plan together your next family hike!
How about you? What tips do you have for family hiking and adventuring? Let me know! I would love to feature your story/tips/ideas on our website too!