Most families spend little time bonding with one another or gaining the health benefits of exploring the great outdoors. Hiking is unique in that it offers both of these benefits in addition to learning and appreciating new experiences. When hiking as a family, it’s imperative that everyone gets the most out of the activity.
Get Them Involved in Their Surroundings
Usually when the kids are satisfied, it is much easier for parents to do the same. Bringing kids along for a hike doesn’t have to be a hassle as long as they can take part in the day’s activities. Make sure they are comfortable and have enough energy to continue. To add additional excitement, give them their own games to partake in along the way. When parents are prepared to keep kids fully engaged, hiking becomes something they will want to enjoy again and again.
1. Begin a Scavenger Hunt or Game of “I Spy”
One of the easiest ways to keep kids engaged in any activity is to make them feel actively involved. When hiking, choose items along the trail for the children to point out along the way. The items can even be based on a theme. Have the children find anything close by of a certain color. For example, if the parent picks the color red, children can take turns pointing out birds, berries and insects to match. Another theme may include types of animals. Each round children can search for something specific such as a butterfly, and the first to make the finding can win a prize such as a small toy or piece of candy.
Spotting items by letter can also be fun. If the letter “B” is the theme, kids can find as many items starting with that letter within a certain amount of time before moving on to another letter. In addition to hunting, the parent may pick their own object in their surroundings and have children guess what was chosen. The parent may also think of items that have not been seen while children see how long it takes to encounter that item.
2. Engage Their Senses
The best part of experiencing nature is enjoying all of the sights and sounds around. On a hiking trail there are many sensory details to explore. Begin by taking a quick stop to listen for 30 to 60 seconds. Have the kids remember all of the things their ears pick up in this span of time. They may pick up birds, insects, running water or forest animals. Encourage them to use their hands to feel the objects around them. They can appreciate the textures of various items like the smooth surface of a stone or the rough grooves of tree bark. They can compare the feel of one item to another of its kind. Take note of the smells in the area. Inhale the aroma of pine needles or fresh flowers. Once safely identified, enjoy tasting and comparing various berries growing in the area.
3. Document the Day with Art
Pack a notebook along with pencils, markers and paints. When the group stops to take a break, take a few minutes and have kids document what they have encountered so far or what they see at the moment. Kids often see their surroundings from a much different perspective compared to adults, so it can be interesting to see how they perceive the natural world. They may notice many things around that the adults in the group have overlooked. They can draw pictures, paint or even write a story about what they experience during the trip. In addition to keeping them engaged in the activity, it will be much easier to preserve the memory by keeping such records.
4. Schedule a Feeding Time
Kids, like most adults, tend to get irritable when they haven’t had the proper nutrition to get them through the day. This can be greatly exacerbated with little ones that are hot or tired. Before leaving, pack enough water and snacks to ensure no one goes hungry along the trail. If they expect processed snacks or sugary drinks take the time to explain the importance of proper hiking nutrition. The foods you provide should be enough to keep them fueled during the hike, but not enough to give them pains or cramps from getting too full. Try to pack light snacks with necessary nutrients that are easy to carry around. Fresh fruit will provide the carbohydrates they need to stay energized while nuts will offer protein to keep them satisfied.
5. Keep Them in Comfy Clothes
The only thing worse than hiking while hot, tired and hungry is doing so while in uncomfortable clothing. First check kids’ shoes to ensure they are durable enough for a long rugged hike but still comfortable enough to be worn for longer periods. Avoid shoes that have too tight of a grip as they will most likely create blisters and sores by the time the hike is over. Dress kids in comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather. If it is a bit cool, pack extra sweaters. If it’s hot, dress them in breathable tees and shorts. As kids tend to get dirty easily, have backup clothing items available. No one wants to be stuck in wet or messy clothing for the remainder of the day. If they are as comfortable as possible, there is less chance of anyone becoming irritable and cranky.