One of the greatest activities to inspire active kids and get the family outside is hiking. Enjoying the outdoors and going for a long walk in a majestic forest setting with birds chirping, squirrels running, water lapping at the creeks edge and happy children scampering and enjoying it all is a perfect picture. . .
Then the reality check!
The above sounds like we just walked into a Disney movie – if only hiking with kids were that magical! Truth is, sometimes our imagination plays tricks on us and we think a scenario will play out much differently than it actually does. In reality the forest is hot and sweaty or cold and windy, the hike is long and boring to the kids and their complaining is taking all the fun out if for you.
So why bother going for a hike at all? Because getting out as a family is great exercise, good bonding time and sets kids up for a lifetime of being active. The trick is, to make it as enjoyable as possible for everyone. I have years of experience and dozens of hikes with kids of all ages under my belt – not all of them Disney worthy, but we are getting there!
These tips will help everyone have a great time while hiking!
10 Tips for Hiking with Kids to Curb the Complaining
- Bring a Friend – someone to play with along the trail is a great distraction
- Take Snacks for animals and the kids. Find stumps that make perfect chairs and declare break time, spread seeds for birds and chipmunks and pack energy snacks for kids. Don’t forget water, everyone will get thirsty.
- Game Play – I spy, bird watching, find chipmunks, count rocks, identify flowers, take turns being in front and play follow the leader or simon says.
- Location location location – have a goal such as a waterfall, a playground, the top of a giant hill, a creek they can splash in or a picnic spot for lunch.
- Treasure Hunt – try geocaching, there are hidden treasures in public places world wide. Kids will love finding hidden treasures out in the forrest.
- Don’t get Lost – sure to spark the whining. Take a map or make sure your GPS is on and your battery charged up.
- Time It Right – don’t wait until nap time or when the afternoon sun is at its hottest to declare hike time. Go earlier in the day when kids have energy and keep weather conditions in mind, then dress appropriately.
- Pack First Aid – you will need Kleenex for runny noses, bandages for scraped knees and some TP for those surprise pee breaks.
- Slow and Steady – Gear the outing to the abilities of your youngest and slowest hiker. A carrier works for the very small or even a wagon if the trail is smooth enough, for when they get tired and just can’t take one more step!
- End on a Happy Note – don’t wait until the kids are over tired to turn the train around. End before they get grumpy and the next time you go for a family hike you can go a little farther.
Don’t give up – hiking as a family and with kids is as good for them as it is for you. Expect some resistance along the way but use that time to introduce new games or a new fun snack, take breaks often and keep the mood light. Hiking is supposed to be fun for everyone!