Hiking with Kids
So you have kids… your hiking days are over right? WRONG!
Hiking with kids and introducing them to nature is one of the most rewarding experiences an outdoors enthusiast can have. To be able to teach new skills, pass on information, and watch young eyes light up as they set their sights on new wonders is a true blessing.
There are however a few things you must keep in mind:
They are just kids – Their interests are different than yours. You have to look at the outing from their perspective and think about the goal, the reward, the adventure. Hiking farther/faster/longer is not a child’s idea of a good days outing. Instead, hype up the destination. “I can’t wait to see the waterfall” or “I bet we can see for miles from the top of this hill”.
Their legs are shorter than yours – Sure they have more energy than you will ever have again but the average child has legs about half the length of yours. A 2km hike is like 4km to them and you have to keep this in mind when planing an outing. Think about an average days walk, how quickly does your little one tire, do you have to carry them often, does he seem to go for ever when he is interested in what he/she is doing? When all else fails, remember one thing – if all is going well, it may be a good time to call the day quits. It is better to end off on a good note than have a wailing tantrum of “I’M TIRED” on your hands.
The trip back is always longer – As I said before, it is all about the goal. Once a child has succeeded, the fun is gone. Save some fun or activities for the trip back to the car. Plan a game of Eye Spy or 20 Questions, recall what you saw, or see if the child can recall landmarks from on their way into a trail. These activities can really eat up time and make the trip back to the car pass quickly.
Play along the way – As I said before, try to make the journey fun. You can look for animals, look under fallen trees for insects, or even play I-Spy. If you are feeling extra adventurous, here are a few more hiking games you can play:
- Colors in nature — As you are hiking along the trail, challenge your kids to find at least 10 things in nature that are, say, blue. The first one to find 10 blue things chooses the next color challenge.
- Nature Bingo — Create a card with sounds, sights, textures, and smells on it. As the children find each they can mark them off. The first one with their card completely marked off gets to pick the trail next tile around.
- Windy ways — Ask your children which direction is the wind blowing? See if they can name two ways to tell which way the wind is blowing.
- Tree hugger — You will need the help of a field guide for this one! One hiker is the treemaster. While hiking along the trail, the treemaster calls out the name of a tree in the area —for example, maple. Everyone runs to find a maple tree and give it a big hug.
- Mystery bag — You’ll need a stuff sack or lunch bag and items found along the trail. Collect items (acorns, pine cones, small stones, trash, etc. — leave the living plants where they are). When you stop for a rest, have your kids put their hands in the bag and try to identify the items they touch.