Hiking can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family! Just because you’re navigating the world of parenthood doesn’t mean that your hiking days are over. Depending on the age of your child, you may no longer be able to take long hikes through perilous terrain, but you can still take the time to explore new locations together as a family.
Taking your child hiking can be a good source of exercise and allows your child to discover the natural world around them. It is also a great time to bond without the distraction of technology. Even young babies can enjoy hiking from the safety of a carrier.
So put the screens away, grab a good pair of hiking boots, and hit the trails! Here are some tips to keep in mind to make your hikes kid-friendly.
Choose a good location
Location is everything when you’re hiking with children. Most kids are going to want to wander and explore during the hike, so choose locations where they’ll get the chance to do something like climb rocks, discover historical landmarks, get some great views from an overlook, or play in some water. Many hiking locations have ponds, lakes, or waterfalls at some point during the hike. Check to make sure the water is safe for your child to play in and let them splash! This can be a nice refresher on a hot day and can help keep them energized on the way back.
Younger children will probably prefer trails closer to home so that they don’t have to sit through a long car ride. But if you’re looking to go on hikes further from home or are hoping to turn your adventures into a camping trip, consider renting or purchasing an RV. This will allow you to have your own space to return to after a day of hiking and will provide you a cozy space to sleep at night (check out Camperism.co for some RV mattress recommendations).
Keep it relaxed
If you try to go for a hike with kids and don’t take the time to stop and enjoy the world around you, you’re probably going to end up with whiny kids. To help keep things enjoyable for both you and the kids, take things at their pace. Let them decide how fast to walk, let them decide when they want to stop and explore, and let them decide when they need a break. Sometimes stopping for a quick break to rest their feet and grab some food is enough to keep kids going. But if your child is starting to fade and get whiny, end the hike for the day.
Allowing them to set the pace and the schedule helps keep kids happier. If they aren’t having a good time, they won’t want to go for additional hikes in the future. If this is the first time you’re attempting hiking with your kids, choose a short trail.
Also, try to keep things fun while hiking! Sing songs together, go on a scavenger hunt, and teach them new skills. For example, if they’re curious about the types of plants that they’re seeing around them, take the time to identify the plants.
Even if you’re only going for a short hike, you’re going to want to be as comfortable and safe as possible. Dress your child appropriately. Brightly colored clothing can allow you to easily spot your child. You should also dress them in several layers of clothing. It is easy to remove a jacket if they start getting too hot.
You should also bring a backpack that has plenty of water, healthy snacks, and a first-aid kit. You’ll want to make sure that you and your children stay hydrated while hiking. Healthy snacks such as protein bars or string cheese can give your child a quick boost of energy. And, if a child falls or gets injured while hiking, a first-aid kit can give you access to needed medical supplies until you can get off the trails.
You’ll also want to teach your child what to do if they get separated from you. It can be a terrifying experience if your tiny explorer ends up wandering too far away from you. Give them a whistle that they can blow into. If your child is old enough, have them carry their own backpack with necessary supplies.
Your hiking days aren’t over just because you’re a parent! You may have to slow your pace and let your child take the lead for a few years, but eventually, they’ll be ready for longer and more difficult trails. The memories you’ll make as a family will be priceless.