“Are we there yet?” Famous words of children heard ‘round the world on a road trip, ready to be off the road and on to some adventures.
However, when you’re dragging your kids up a hiking trail, chances are good you’ll be asked over and over again “are we there yet?”, but this one will seem a bit more desperate.
Hiking with kids isn’t always easy. Some youngins are gungho about it, and others well, are a bit more of a challenge.
So what do you do when you want to go hiking, and have kids in tow? In order to make your family hiking experience a pleasant one that won’t have you dragging your kids up and down the mountain, follow these KOA-approved tips.
Keep it short
Though you’re able to hike for an entire day with no problem, you’ve got to keep in mind that your kids are not quite as conditioned to hiking as you.
Especially when you’re beginning on your hiking endeavors with your kids, be sure you pick an easy trail to start with. And don’t set your sights too high on actually making it to the top of the peak, or the end of the trail.
Chances are good your kids will get distracted by things along the way, and it’s best to let them be. When you’re with kids, hiking is even more about the journey than the destination, so enjoy the steps along the way and don’t be hyper-focused on reaching the end.
Incorporate a scavenger hunt
If you are hoping to keep the little ones trekking for a bit longer of a trail, then we suggest that you find a way to make the hike more than just walking along a trail. Rather, turn it into a scavenger hunt where they are motivated to keep going and find things along the way.
Don’t worry about pre-planting things for them to find. Instead, let nature be your hider, and your kids the seekers. Here are some fun things you can have them search for:
- Animal tracks
Though this will definitely add time to your hike, it will be well worth it. It will be a chance for you to take a break and have some fun, and will certainly keep your kids occupied while slowly making your way through the hike.
Games such as tag are a great way to speed up the pace, and integrate some more light-hearted fun into your hike.
Hide and seek is also something your kids will love, but another one that will extend the length of your hike. It’s all about the journey though, right?
Sing-a-longs are proven to be a hit with kids as well. Teach them some songs along the way, or belt out some of their favorites while on the trail. Just remember to be mindful of other hikers and when they are in your vicinity, keep singing to a minimum so others can enjoy their time in nature.
Follow the leader
Instead of you leading the pack while on the hike, why not let you kiddos have a crack at it? Choose someone to be the leader, and have others follow. You’ll want to help guide them somewhat to keep things on track, but also let them get off the beaten path and do some new exploring.
If you’re hiking with more than one kid, switch off leaders to make everyone gets to experience it.
Another reason follow the leader is so great is that it lets the kids set the pace of the hike so you aren’t exhausting them.
Take snack breaks
Every kid loves snacks. Heck, every adult loves snacks. This becomes even more true when you are hiking and exerting energy.
Plan to pack some good snacks in your backpack ahead of time for the hike, and make snack breaks a frequent occurrence. Kids will need the snacks to refuel their energy, and it will also give everyone a chance to catch their breath and relax for a bit.
The more of a treat the snacks are, the better. Sometimes you may want to even entice them with some candy to keep things moving along.
Or, if your kids are a bit older, you can let them carry their own bag with snacks and let them opt for when they want to have their snacks.
Letting them have some of the control over the eating times is a great way to keep their mood regulated, and make them feel like they aren’t just following you along.
Breaks are also a crucial time to ensure you and your kids are getting plenty of water. By giving them this opportunity to hydrate and snack up, they will remain happy and you’ll save yourself from dealing with hangry children.
Also, you can use the breaks to keep a pace. “Just ten more minutes of hiking and then we will take a quick water break,” will help keep them moving and motivated.
Keep their pack weight low
If your kid is old enough to pack his or her own bag, be sure you watch how much weight s/he is carrying. The last thing you need is a young hiker who gets burned out fast because his/her pack is weighing him/her down.
In fact, you should plan on inevitably ending up carrying their pack because they are going to get tired and not want to deal with the extra weight. So for your sanity as well, don’t load their bag up too much.
Don’t forget the bug spray
We all hate bug bites, but it seems like kids hate them the most. In order to keep from dealing with some whining kids covered in bug bites, whatever you do, do not forget the bug spray and the sunscreen while you’re at it.
Keeping skin protected from bugs and the sun is going to make this experience memorable in the right ways, rather than due to a leg full of bug bites or a sunburn that lasts for weeks.
Let your kids help pick the trails
By scouting out a few trails ahead of time that are family-friendly, give your kids the option of which one they’d like to do. The more say they have in the experience, the more they’re going to enjoy it, and the more they are going to be motivated to keep going once out on the trail.
Do your research and find some kid-friendly trails that you can cross off your list together, one hike at a time.
Give them a camera
There is something about a camera that really gets kids excited, so let them feel that excitement on the hike.
Plus, you never know what great photos they’ll capture! Kids have a different way of looking at things, especially nature, so let them run free with a camera to capture some unique moments. Be sure it’s a camera you don’t mind getting beat up a bit, as the chances of them dropping it on rocks and such is quite high.
Teach them to leave no trace
Leaving no trace behind is an important message for all hikers to follow, regardless of their age. Get your kids on track with this as early as possible by ensuring that they clean up after themselves while on the trail. Their snack garbage should be put back in their bag (or yours) until you’re at a spot where it can be properly disposed.
You can even take a small garbage bag and have the kids pick up anything they find on the trail, even if it’s not garbage that they brought in. This is a great opportunity to create a reward system for them to help keep the environment clean so it can be enjoyed for years to come.
Hike with friends
Sometimes having a few kids and a couple adults together can make the hike more fun.
Rather than you being the sole source of entertainment and motivation, other kids can help each other stay moving and get excited about all the fun things that nature has to offer. It also gives you a break from your duties so that you have more of an opportunity to enjoy the hike yourself.
Make hikes a regular thing
The more of a regular occurrence hikes become, the more your kids will grow accustomed to them and enjoy them. Children like routine, so if you are able to work hikes into your routine with them, that’s fantastic!
Chances are good you’ll find them suggesting you go on a hike. Kids are all about adventure and most enjoy spending time out in nature, so it’s the perfect win-win situation for all. With all the trails there are out there to explore, you can make hiking something you do quite often with your kids.
And you’ll be so thankful of the memories you’re able to create through these unique experiences.
Hiking can quickly become your family’s favorite activity to do together, and with a bit of planning, it won’t be too difficult. Each hike you do will get easier and easier, as your kids get the hang of hiking and what works best for them to get the most out of the experience (as well as you!). So get ready for some year-round fun with your kiddos!
Looking for a place to start with ideas for hiking trails?
Check out this article about some of our favorite hiking trails. Just be sure to do your research to determine whether they are a fit for your family.
Leslie, a.k.a. Copy Girl, is a copywriter who gets butterflies from telling stories through words.
Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.
With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie love the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.
Everywhere she goes, she takes this advice with her:
“Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown.” – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing world, visit her website here.