One good thing about the global pandemic and stay at home orders right now is that more people are heading outside to enjoy walking, running, biking and hiking. People are finding ways to get fresh air close to home. That is awesome!
However, last weekend when we were out on a hike, it was kind of obvious that a lot of people out on the trails were new. And a lot of those new people had kids.
Hiking with kids isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when you are first getting started. There’s road blocks at any age. From all the gear you need to take along with little babes to all the complaining that ensues with preteens to teens. So how do you turn your kids into enthusiastic hikers or at least ones that will tolerate it with minimal complaining?
Start short and slow
Don’t expect to cover 5 miles at a brisk pace for your child’s first hike. Starting off with a short distance at the child’s pace is best. Be prepared for frequent stops. LOTS of stops.
Toss out your agenda
Let your child lead. You may want to hike for hours, but if they call it quits after 15 minutes, it’s better to head back to the car rather than force them to keep moving onward. I remember when my kid’s were around 8 months old. It took forever to pack ALL the gear we thought we’d need for our hike. We thought we’d be gone an hour or two. We hiked 20 minutes before the kid’s both let us know it wasn’t going to happen. The screaming in our ears was enough to know that it was not the best day to hike.
Bring a First Aid kit because there’s bound to be a skinned knee. In addition, wet wipes, tissues, lip balm, sunblock and insect repellant are just as important.
From backpacks, hydration vests, compasses, and water bottles, there’s nothing cooler to a child than a mini version of mom or dad’s gear. Although you most likely will be the one who ends up carrying that gear in addition to your own.
Snacks and fluids
Hiking requires a lot of energy. When kids run out of energy, what happens? They get cranky. Very cranky. Keep your child happy and motivated by taking numerous small breaks for fluids and snacks. I’ve learned that you can never pack too many snacks. If you think you’ve packed enough, pack some more. And maybe even more. More is always better.
Make sure that you take ample amounts of clothing in case your child gets cold while out on the trail. Always bring a waterproof jacket with a hood in addition to a hat and gloves. Make sure your kids have the proper shoes. Finally, always pack a change of clothes for each child and leave them in the car for your return from the trail – chances are someone is going to be wet and muddy!
And FYI leave the white sneakers and clothing at home. It will not be white when you are done.
Kids love sticks. It can be used for so many things – a walking stick, for bushwacking through low trees, poking at plants or as a pointer. We seem to always find the “perfect” hiking stick at least 10 times during a hike.
Have a destination
Choose hikes with landmarks, like a trail that ends at a fire tower, a lake or a waterfall. A post hike destination or treat is always a good motivator too. My kids’ seem to hike a little faster knowing that there’s a stop at an ice cream place on the way home.
The whole goal is to make sure that their experience is FUN so they will want to go again. If you make it boring and torturous to them, the complaining will be nonstop with the ultimate resistance you bring up a hike again.
In full disclosure, there will be whining. There will be complaining. Oh yes there will! But hopefully, there will also be laughter, excitement and joy in enjoying a fun experience as a family in the great outdoors.
Linking up with Runners’ Roundup