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  • How to Get Kids Involved in Your Hiking Adventures

    How to Get Kids Involved in Your Hiking Adventures

    Youíve got kids. Now what? Does that mean you have to put away your tent and pack your trekking poles for the next 18 years? Luckily, the answer is no. You will, however, have to change your goals a bit. Instead of trying to trek the entire Appalachian Trail in one go, you might need to break it up into more manageable sections to enjoy with your kids.
    While you might not be able to go as far, fast or high as you did previously, thereís still plenty of ways you can get your kids involved in hiking. With that said, there are some things to keep in mind.

    Make Sure to Bring Enough Supplies
    From extra water and snacks to diapers, bottles and moreódepending on how young you want to get your children involved in hikingóall of these items add extra weight to your pack. While you might be able to forego some luxuries as an adult, you donít want to leave behind necessities for your child, especially when it comes to food and fluids.

    Hiking already requires a lot of energy. And as you know, energy-sapped kids turn cranky quickly. For a successful hike, make sure you pack enough food for multiple rest stops along the way. Make sure to carry a variety of snacks so your child isnít bored by the options.

    Although it might take up more space, having more snacks in your pack can act as a great motivator for your child. You can use it as a way to keep him moving to the next planned rest stop. By the time heís finished resting and eating, heíll be ready to walk a bit farther.

    The one thing you donít need to bring for your children? Any electronics. Thereís no reason they need their phone or gaming device with them. The hike is about enjoying time in nature as a family, so tell them to leave the smartphone at home.

    Take It Easy
    Remember, your child doesnít have as much experience hiking as you. Children also get tired much faster, so they probably wonít appreciate a very steep uphill climb. Keep in mind the hike isnít about you anymore; itís about you and your child.

    For the first few trips, choose some hikes that are relatively level and easy. If thereís an awesome reward at the end such as a waterfall, amazing view or even a great place to play, even better. Thatís motivation enough for them to keep going.

    While a nice end is great, most of all, the hike is about the experience. Engage your children in conversation as you walk and point out some plants, trees or birds. Encourage them to get on their hands and knees and explore the undergrowth. Just make sure the area is clear of poison ivy and oak.

    If you want to take it one step further, you can organize the hike into a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items for your child to find and keep it relatively simple. Itís a great way to keep them entertained, and you can always go into more detail of that particular object once your child finds it. Itís fun and educational!

    Give Your Child a Role
    Children enjoy feeling useful and being in charge of something. So give them a designated role during the hike. This could be something like the bird watcher, snack organizer or even cheerleader for the other members of the hike. Whatever it is, make sure to thank them for their help.

    You can also rotate roles as the leader. Not only will this help children feel empowered, but theyíll also be more invested in the hike when theyíre leading the group. Itís also an excellent way to gauge their pace. This way, when you go back to being the leader, you can slow down or speed up as necessary. Just make sure you donít forget to rotate; otherwise, itíll lead to arguments down the road. How and when you decide to rotate these roles is up to you.

    Of course, you still need to look out for everyoneís safety. If it looks like your child is trying to lead the group off trail or somewhere that might be dangerous, gently guide him back onto the path and explain what the signs mean and why he needs to follow them. Itís a good idea to emphasize the safety aspect from the very beginning of the hike and repeat it throughout, especially when youíre leading.

    Invite Their Friends
    Activities are always more fun with friends. This is just as true for adults as it is for kids. Plan ahead and ask your children if they want to invite anyone from school. Or if you already have some family friends, invite them along. Your kids will have someone their own age to chat with while hiking. It can keep their energy levels up, and it makes the entire experience more memorable.

    Just make sure your children doesnít invite their entire class. It can be difficult to manage that many people on a trail, and thereís bound to be miscommunication and confusion at some point. Instead, invite one or two friends and promise that next time they can bring someone new. Then they can spend some time hiking with everyone, just not at the same time.

    Make It a Tradition
    Physical activity is important for people of all ages. In fact, kids should get around 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. Hiking is the perfect option as it gets your kids out in nature, itís fairly low-impact, and itís an excellent family-bonding experience. Plus, hiking provides a sense of adventure because you never know what youíre going to see, even on the same trail. Depending on the season you could see a fox, deer or different types of birds. And, of course, you get to see how the scenery changes during the seasons.

    Shoot for an expedition once or twice a month to explore the area around your home. If you live in a large city, you could even take some time to go somewhere youíve never been before. There are countless opportunities to spend time outside.

    You donít need to give up hiking just because you have kids. If anything, you should encourage them to join your adventures and explore the wilderness. It will give them an appreciation of the world around them.

    About the Author:
    Cassie is a freelance writer for eHealth Informer and avid hiker. She loves the time she gets to spend connecting with nature and her family.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. tiptoe's Avatar
      tiptoe -
      There's some very helpful info here. Additionally, I'd add map reading to the list of skills to teach. You can consider distances, elevation changes, shelters, water sources, viewpoints, and other interesting features when planning each day. I've done this with my 7-year-old granddaughter, and she really enjoys it.
    1. HighVoltage's Avatar
      HighVoltage -
      My wife and I with our 8 year old daughter recently completed the Blood Mountain section in GA. Although a day hike it was my daughter who I considered turning around for about halfway up from Vogel State Park. I thought it would be too much for her even though I have never turned around when hiking solo. She looked up at the top of the mountain and said" we have come this far, we are going the rest of the way". Against my suggestion she hammered it out to the top and back like a trooper and it is a trip I will never forget. If you get your kids excited about what hiking truly is (great point above about leaving electronics) they can show you a thing or two when you may doubt their ability as a watchful parent.
    1. Reverse's Avatar
      Reverse -
      We started hiking with our kids when they were about 5 months (old enough to keep their head up and not need to be nursed every 2.5 hours. Started with my grandkids out for their first hike when they were 2 and 3. I should them about puff balls which they loved to stomp on to watch them poof. They raced each other to the next white blaze and loved looking for little orange salamanders. We did not get many miles in but they loved it.
    1. colorado_outdoor_fam's Avatar
      colorado_outdoor_fam -
      If anybody reading this and is still not swayed to go outdoors with your kids then check out my instagram. https://www.instagram.com/colorado_outdoor_family/ ... It can be done. If you want more advice or trail trip ideas for the Colorado area, hit me up. I am always willing to spread the love.
    1. EuroPacker's Avatar
      EuroPacker -
      my dad begged me to go hike with him. i never did and always regretted it- particularly now that i've experienced a passion for it in later life. sad. get your kids on the trail young for the memories.
    1. HooKooDooKu's Avatar
      HooKooDooKu -
      One piece of advice I would add would be to allow time for your kids to explore.
      The 1st day of the 2nd camping trip I ever took my 1st son on was a miserable day because of his attitude. But what created the attitude was when we skipped hiking down a side trail to see a waterfall because we were pressed for time. Had I built in extra time into our schedule, we could have followed his desire to explore the waterfall and the rest of the day would have been enjoyable.
    1. hike1's Avatar
      hike1 -
      I'm Alex, and I track issues of interest to backpackers on the Tahoe to Whitney Website. While centered on the High Sierra, we track news and research on birds, bees, bears, & trees, the climate, Ice & snow, and of course treat the topic of getting kids out on the trail, here:
      The, "Thing," is that the social, "Box," we raise kids within does not develop their physical, mental, nor psychological skills. Backpacking, and hiking in Nature does develop these socially-negelected skills. I monitor the daily publication of scientific research, and I filter out the kid news & research of interest, as well as that on our changing environment. This research offers more reasons to get and keep yourself and your kid(s) engaged in Nature! Happy Trails!
    1. Jeanine's Avatar
      Jeanine -
      I totally agree that if parents have a love for hiking, they will automatically introduce their kids to it as a fun and active sport they can do as a family. I wish more parents would try hiking with their children and maybe some hikes with hubby while Grandma babysits. : )