Hiking with children, if prepared to do so, can be a memorable, fun, and great learning experience for both child and adult. With children inside all day during the week, and consumed by tv during their free time, hiking is a great way to get them outside and develop their love for nature. Being prepared for a hike with children can make the difference between long hours of complaining and them asking “when are we going on our next hike?”
Here are some essential tips that will ensure your family can enjoy hikes together for years to come:
Have realistic expectations
Expecting your hike to be as easy and quick as adult only hikes is the easiest way to feel disappointed at the end of your family adventure. Children are slower and more curious than adults. This means you should expect (and encourage) frequent stops to explore, listen to nature sounds, and take breaks. You should set a large block of time, if not the whole day, to enjoy the hike and not worry about time.
Start off easy
Just as children are slower than adults on hikes, they also get tired and impatient more quickly than adults do. This means, especially for their first hike, you should start off with an easy and predictable trail that is not too long. The worst situation would be having the kids be cranky and tired before the hike is even half way done. That being said, children should be prepared to know the length of the hike beforehand so they can be mentally and physically prepared for the adventure.
Your kids will feed off your energy
The last thing you want on a hike is cranky children. Because your kids feed off your energy, keeping a positive attitude during the duration of the hike is key. If you punish or seem annoyed that your children are complaining or are not hiking as quickly as you expected, they will respond more negative energy. Constantly encourage with phrases such as “You’re so fast I can hardly keep up!” and “You’re so tired because you’ve been doing such a good job on this difficult trail. I’m so impressed!” Positive reinforcement is the way to go all hike long.
Have a supportive child carrier for small children
If you are hiking with children under the age of 4, a good quality child carrier is a necessity. The quality of the carrier can make the difference between horrible back pain for days and not even noticing weight on your back. A good carrier should have comfortable shoulder and waist straps, comfortable seating area for the child, and lots of storage for drinks, snacks, etc.
View all the Clevr Carriers to see which will be the best fit for your child and family. Each style has different sizing and features that can fulfill your comfort and hiking needs.
Lollipops & Snacks
Snacks and treats are necessary both to cure hunger and for a simple distraction. Kids will get hungry especially during long hikes so snacks like granola bars or crackers are always great to have on hand. Lollipops are a good go-to treat to distract a cranky child. They take a long time to eat, and your child will focus more on finishing their treat, than how tired their legs are.
Sometimes it’s hard to think on the spot so prepare a list of games to play when the kids get a little bored. Simple games such as I Spy or 20 Questions are always easy ones to play when no other games come to mind. You can be creative and judge by what you know your children will be entertained with. See who can find the most orange leaves along the trail or who can spot the most amount of birds. Choosing a “leader” to walk in the front of the group every half hour gives young children a sense of responsibility that they can have fun with.
A basic, yet necessary, need is plenty of water for the trip. Because water can be heavy, you can encourage the kids to have their own backpack (which can also be used for snacks) and each carry a water bottle. They might drink more water than they can carry so be sure to carry spare bottles in your own pack.
Clothes, comfortable shoes, change of clothes
Comfortable shoes will make or break your day. Everyone should be wearing shoes and socks that will be comfortable all day long. Similarly, comfortable and protective clothes that is light, yet warm enough for the entire hike is necessary to keep everyone happy. For chilly days be sure to bring light sweaters that can be tied around waists once it gets warm. If the hike involves water (a stream or waterfall) bring extra dry clothes in the car to change into so the car ride home is comfortable and dry.
Leave no trace
A hike with children is a perfect opportunity to teach them the value of caring for the environment. Teach children to not leave trash and to pick up trash that they find. You can even turn this into a game or give each child a bag to pick up trash the entire hike.
Hiking as a family is a great way to get outdoors, exercise, and bond as a family. The way you prepare for a hike can either make or break your experience. Use these tips, research the hike before hand, and talk to other parents who hike with children for more advice to make sure your children will want to hike again and again.