Hiking is such a fun activity to do as a family! My kids know that hiking is one of my very favorite things to do. It is my favorite form of exercise, but it’s also a great way to get some fresh air, see something new and introduce your kids to the outdoors. AND it’s a fun alternative to sitting around the house staring at screens! Sometimes hiking with kids can feel more like a chore than a great bonding experience though, so that is why I’ve compiled this list of my favorite tips for hiking with kids help make your day of exploring a little more enjoyable.
For more great summertime activity ideas check out:
One more fun note: the pictures in this post were taken on a hike that Camille and I went on with our kids four years ago! Back when we were pretty much neighbors (sobbing, sad, crying face). Now on with the tips!
15 tips for hiking with kids
1. Choose the right hike
When starting out choose trails that do not have much elevation gain and aren’t too difficult. Choose a trail that has plenty of fascinating features like streams and lakes. This will give your children something to look at along the way and give them something to look forward to. You can research trails on the internet before you venture out to find out how difficult they are and to check on some of the features they have along the way. Remember for children hiking is a fun way to explore and experience nature, make it enjoyable so they want to keep hiking.
2. Wear the right clothing
It’s all about layers. It can be a lot colder in the mountains, especially in the mornings and evenings, so make sure you are prepared for temperature changes. A cold, hot, or wet child will not be happy about hiking. Prepare for rain by bringing rain clothes (check out this great hooded raincoat), these can also act as a great wind-breaker if needed.
Make sure everyone has good sturdy shoes that will protect their little feet from rocks, sticks, and other debris along the trail. We love these washable shoes for Toddlers!
Last, but, not least, I like to have an extra change of clothes in the car in case we make it back and the kids are wet or muddy.
3. Stay hydrated
Of course you don’t want to forget water! Make sure that everyone has enough. Stay hydrated along the trail and take breaks for water often.
We love these Contigo water bottles, everyone in our family has one. They come in a lot of colors so we can tell them apart and we love using a reusable product that keeps plastic water bottles out of the landfill. Yes!
4. Bring a lot of snacks
Hiking can zap a lot of energy out of everyone so taking a quick break for a snack here and there is important. Snacks are also a great morale booster for kids dragging their feet. We like to bring fruit leather, nuts, raisins, and apples to snack on along the trail. For more snack ideas check out this awesome post from Mother’s Niche.
5. Make it fun
If you’re having fun your kids will be more motivated to keep going. Play games on the trail to keep everyone happy and preoccupied. “I spy” is one of our favorites to play. 20 questions is another good one. Have children look for animals, acorns, or flowers, have them listen for frogs, streams in the distance, or birds. I love this nature scavenger hunt from Organize and Decorate everything.
This bug scavenger hunt would also be so much fun!
6. Take turns who gets to be the leader
Kids like to be the leader, they feel powerful and in charge. Make sure you give everyone a turn and make it fun. Play “follow the leader” and have the leader in charge of choosing an action everyone has to do or have them pick a song everyone has to sing. Having the children be the leader is also nice for the adults because then you are sure you are going the right pace.
7. Sing Songs
When we can tell our kids are getting a little bored we love to sing camp songs. It’s kind of fun to belt out a silly song and it keeps the kids entertained. This is an awesome list of simple songs for kids and you can even play each one to hear how it sounds.
8. Take plenty of breaks
You will be stopping for snacks and drink breaks, but also stop to throw some rocks in the stream, sit on a fallen branch, or even read a story. Your children will need to rest their feet more often than you, but with a little rest they’ll be ready to continue quickly.
9. Don’t forget a first aid kit
Plan for a few slips along the way. Hopefully you won’t need more than an occasional Band-Aid, but it’s good to be prepared for anything.
I love this first aid kit for hiking. It’s hands free, light weight and has everything you need for outdoor play.
10. Be patient
Kids are natural explorers and they will want to stop to check out moss growing on rocks, a bug, a cool tree, or animal tracks. You are going to want to schedule more time for your hike than you think you will need. You are going to be moving a lot slower than you’re used to, but as long as your child is having fun let them take in all that the mountains have to offer while you’re there. If you don’t quite make it to your final destination, take it all in stride and look at what you were able to accomplish. Patience is key!
11. Hike with a friend
It’s a lot more fun for kids if they have someone their age they can talk to and explore with. Having a friend also keeps your kid from whining too much.
12. Bring a container of hand wipes
Hiking is dirty. I think it’s great to get out and get dirt under your fingernails, but when it’s time to eat it is great to have wipes, such as Wet-Nap hand wipes available to clean up the mess. Wipes are also great to clean up any messy faces after a snack or when you’re done with your hike and ready to get back in your car. They fit perfectly in your hiking backpack for quick retrieval whenever they are needed.
13. Give lots of encouragement
Don’t underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Tell your child that they are doing great, that they are strong, and that they are awesome hikers, and do it often. Kids love to hear kind words of encouragement from you and will keep it up to hear even more.
14. Leave no trace
You want to instill a love for wilderness in your kids by hiking so also make sure they know how to treat the great outdoors! Do not leave any water bottles, snack wrappers, or other litter in those mountains. Make sure anything you pack in with you, you pack it back out as well. After taking a rest make sure you check your spot before getting up again. For more information on leave no trace check here.
I also like to encourage my kids to pick up any litter they see along the way. Leave the trail more beautiful than you found it!
15. Keep hiking
Last, but, not least, get out often. Have an adventure as a family. Learn to love nature. Just keep doing it!
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