Make Family Hiking Fun

2015 July 29
by Kerrie Flanagan

Whether hiking in the mountains of Colorado or through the redwoods in California, getting the whole family outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine is a wonderful way to spend time together. As adults, we appreciate the time outdoors, but kids may not see the point in walking through the woods, just for the sake of being on a walk. With a few helpful hints from some experts, you will find hiking with the kids can be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Appeal to their natural curiosity.  The Washington Trail Association believes a good hike is one that appeals to a child’s sense of exploration and adventure. “Every trail has some kind of adventure in it. Look for discoveries along the way. Bring a magnifying glass and kid-friendly field guide. Teach kids to be good observers by looking for signs of wildlife (feathers on the ground, claw scratches on tree trunks, animal tracks, bird holes in dead trees, fur along the trail, slugs. Water striders on lakes, sand dollars along the beach, frogs in pond).”

Rest often, but not too much.  Carrie Visintainer, mother of two, a family travel coach and the author of Wild Mama, has found a good system of resting. “Kids often act like they’ve climbed Everest after walking for ten minutes. They complain of tired legs and failing lungs. However, do you see how they run circles (literally) around you at home? I’ve found it works well to rest every thirty minutes. Even toddlers can make it; really. During the rest, offer water and high-energy snacks like granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit, and compliment them on their progress.” She also throws in a few “sugary” snacks that her kids don’t normally get at home, as rewards. 

Believe in the power of positive reinforcement. According to The Wilderness Society, praising kids can go a long way to making your hike a great experience. “Positive reinforcement is something parents excel at and it shouldn’t be left at the trailhead. When hiking, go overboard in telling your child how well they are hiking, how strong they look and how fast they are – even if they aren’t. Kids need to hear that they are doing an awesome job, especially if it’s their first time out on the trail. 

Be prepared.  The Pacific Crest Trail Association believes having the right supplies with you will make for a successful trip.  “In addition to the normal items you may bring along on a hiking or backpacking trip, there are additional pieces of gear that may be helpful to include in your packing list. Here’s a list of some of those items:

•    Diapers
•    Baby wipes (even for older kids)
•    Toilet paper and/or facial tissue
•    Plastic grocery bag for garbage or dirty diapers
•    Extra clothes for your kids (socks, underwear, pants, shirts)
•    Light kids jacket
•    Whistle for kids age 4 and older. Teach them how and when to use it.

The main thing is to have fun. Family hiking trips are a great way to connect with each other and to the world around us. 


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