I always wanted to take the kids camping and hiking. And then I remembered how they whine just walking through the aisles of the grocery store or freak out if they don’t have 20 different sources of light at night. How would they ever make it on a trail hike or overnight in a tent? I finally decided we were missing out on active family time, so I took my chances and planned a family hike. Here is what I learned.
Don’t Go Big or You’ll Go Home… Crying
It’s always better to start small when you’re talking about kids and hiking. They might feel great on the 2 miles away from the car, but their little legs also have to make it back those 2 miles — unless you feel like lugging them down the trail.
Find a short trail or a loop that gets you back to your starting point without covering a lot of ground. How long is too long? That really depends on the child. Some kids can keep on going for miles, while others are ready to call it quits after a short jaunt through the woods. You know your child better than anyone. Plan accordingly.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Even if you’re going on a short hike through the woods near your house you need some basic gear and supplies. First, dress everyone comfortably. You don’t need to outfit the kids in hiking boots, but they do need sturdy, closed-toed shoes that won’t slip. Long sleeves and long pants protect their little arms and legs from bugs and scratches. Top the family off with hats to keep the sun and ticks out of hair.
Don’t forget protection. Sunscreen and insect repellent are musts if you plan to spend the day tromping down trails. Bring extra so you can reapply while you’re out. Pack a first aid kit while you’re at it in case anyone gets a bug bite or a scrape.
Food and water definitely need to make the list. Hydration is essential even on a short hike. Bring plenty of water for the whole family. Food is a good motivator to keep kids moving. And a picnic mid-trail is a fun way to get a little rest. Bring extra snacks in case the little hikers start whining.
Plan on a Snail’s Pace
Having kids is a lesson in stopping to smell the roses. Kids want to explore. They want to watch a line of ants haul junk way bigger than their bodies. They want to splash in a puddle on the side of the trail. They want to watch the water ripple as they toss stones in the creek. This is all park of the hiking experience with kids. Commit to the slow pace and exploration so you aren’t disappointed.
Get Out There
What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate like I did when it comes to getting your kids outdoors. Unplug the TV and head outdoors for a kid-friendly hike.