Hiking and backpacking were adventures that my husband and I loved to do together. When we started having kids, those two things were put on the backburner. We knew we wanted to do this more and the only way we can get out there is to get our kids on board with the adventure. So, here are some tips and tricks we use to get our kids on the trail with us.
Who doesn’t love gadgets and gear? The best part of finding any new activity is the new gear you get to buy. Kids are no different. We bought both our kids a backpack that is used for hiking and travel. This is a good start to getting them used to wearing a backpack and carrying their own stuff. Even on short hikes, they wear their packs. It prepares them for carrying their own things for future longer hikes. They also enjoy storing the treasures they find during their hike.
With kids, I think every activity needs snacks. Hiking is no exception. We always pack trail mix, protein bars and snacks that they might not get often at home to make it a special event. Don’t forget their water bottle!
My kids love leading the hike. Some trails are marked, but I also bring a map. Even if it’s just a quick loop at our local park. It helps them to learn how to map read (something I am terrible at) and gives them the confidence to lead the hike.
I know, stopping a hundred times isn’t an adult’s idea of a good hike, but kids need it. We have to remember they are small, most initially don’t prefer walking and get bored easily. We stop often to look at nature, have our snacks and take pictures.
In the kid’s backpack, I add things like a magnifying glass, small baggie to collect specimens, scavenger hunt printouts and in the summer and fall, a leaf collection book. These are just a few ways to make the hike more fun and engaging. We also sing songs, climb trees, throw sticks in the water and look for animal scat and prints.
Kids are never bored when they have a friend around. Bring friends along on the hike or join a local hiking group with other families to build a network of fellow hikers.
Busy schedules can make getting on the trail hard. Remember that not every hike needs to be epic. Short hikes can be just as engaging as a long one. The idea is to be consistent about going. The more it becomes your family’s routine, the easier it gets to get them on the trail. It might seem obvious, but scheduling a hike on the calendar is the best way to make it happen. If it’s on the calendar than your committed to hiking!