Hiking with children can be a lot of fun, but the key to having a great family hiking adventure is preparation. Preparing kids for something new can seem daunting, so I’m going to break it into the four E’s of kid’s
hiking prep. You’ve got to get them excited, get them educated, get them equipped and keep them engaged.
Get Them Excited
Nothing makes a new idea less exciting than making it sound like work. Instead of presenting a family hike as a long walk or climb, talk about it as an adventure – adventures are exciting!
Let the kids help you plan the hike. If you already have a location in mind, get out a map and them help you plan which trails to take or where to stop along the way. Help the kids check online and see if you can find pictures of the trails or the destination. If you don’t have a location in mind, let your kids choose! Help them go online and search for local hiking spots.
Our family loves to hike a local state park featuring lots of different trails leading to several different waterfalls. To get my kids excited for the hike, I have a copy of the trail map and together we look it over and trace out where we want to go. My kids love pirates, so we pretend it’s a pirate treasure map and that we will find treasure at one of the falls, so we mark an X on whichever falls they think will have the best treasure and we map out how we’re going to get there.
Get them Educated
As adults, we know that there are safety rules that have to be followed while hiking and it’s very important to teach your kids how to be safe on a hike. The most important rule in our family is that we all need to stay within ear and eyesight of each other. Also teach them what to do if they get lost – stay where you are and blow your emergency whistle. There are of course other safety rules which will depend on where you’re hiking. It will be important to talk to your kids about plant safety – which plants are safe to touch and which are not, as well as keeping plants and their environment safe by not picking them. It’s also good to teach your kids about staying hydrated and energized with plenty of water and healthy snacks.
Get them Equipped
Getting kids equipped for their first hiking adventure can definitely be part of getting them excited for it, too! Shopping for clothes and snacks is definitely fun! One important tip – you’ll want to have everything ready to before the day of the hike, you don’t want to waste time and energy scrambling to get everything ready and then have everyone be too tired and stressed out to enjoy the hike itself! You’ll want to make sure everyone has supportive footwear and clothing appropriate for the weather and level of exertion. You’ll also want to help each kiddo pack their own day pack full of essential items they’ll need for the hike – a water bottle, plenty of healthy snacks, and a small basic first aid kit and an emergency whistle. You might consider also packing an extra pair of clothes in their bag, or you might want to carry it in your own bag if it would make theirs too heavy. Don’t forget to pack the camera! Of course you need to bring yours to capture the precious memories, but it can be really fun to give your kids a camera, too!
Keep them Engaged
Once you’re on your hiking adventure, if you’re not careful,
the kids might get bored. There a few ways to avoid this. First, you’ll want to make sure that you keep the hike to a short enough distance and easy enough terrain so as not to tire the kids out too much. If you overwork them on their first hike, they might not want to try it again! Second, you’ll want to take frequent breaks for snacking and exploring. Part of the fun of hiking is getting out in nature and there are plenty of things to explore in nature – plants, rocks, bugs, animals or evidence of animals. Just be sure to remind the kids to be safe and respectful.
One great way to keep kids excited and prepared before the hike and keep them engaged during the hike is by creating a scavenger hunt list. In order to be respectful of nature, it’s a good idea to make it a photo or video scavenger hunt. List some things to look for or do, like certain flowers or bugs or even dance moves or silly steps and see who can get pictures or video of the most things on the list.
With these tips in mind for preparing your kids, you’ll be ready for your first family adventure hike in no time!