Hiking With Kiddos Is Fun...Seriously!
Hiking adventures are the perfect excuse for some of you to get away from your kiddos and believe us, we understand. We really, really, understand. For others, hiking is a passion you want to share with your family in hopes of starting a tradition. Not only can you make lifelong memories but you'll undoubtedly see personal growth in your tiny humans, and it's the perfect opportunity to educate them on all things outdoors and nature! Below are some helpful parenting tricks to make your kid-friendly hike less, let's be honest, painful...and more memorable (in a good way)!
Depending on age, you might want to give your child their own little travel pack with some outdoor essentials including healthy snacks, water, and a safety whistle. Exploring exerts energy, even more so for the youngins, so it's our job as parents to make sure they are staying plenty hydrated while out on the trail. For healthy snacks we suggest the usuals...graham crackers, granola bars, and fruit snacks. And why not throw in some Tic-Tacs, suckers, or ring pops for a little energy booster. They deserve it but more importantly, you can use the fun treats to your advantage to keep them moving along. This isn't our first rodeo! If you give them a safety whistle, which we highly recommend, make sure you explain to them the importance of using it wisely and that if they do need to "find mommy or daddy" with the whistle, blow 3 sharp bursts. We've also found that by going on a hike in the morning or earlier in the day, you'll get the most energy out of your littles. Not only that but you'll probably get better weather, especially if you're planning on hiking during the warmer months, helping to avoid overexertion and overheating.
CLOTHES & SHOES
We all know the importance of clothing and shoes when we venture out into Mother Nature and how we dress our kids is no different. Like we would tell you, make sure the kids have layers on. Most likely they'll be running around and sweating, you'll end up carrying them at some point, they'll jump into creeks or slide around in mud...the adventures of the day are unknown and you want to be prepared for all the elements! Speaking of kids wanting to be carried, do yourself a favor and have a backpack carrier if you know one of your little monkeys will want a free ride. It's a safe bet to have an extra pair of socks in case they turn into professional puddle jumpers. It wouldn't hurt to pack a hat for sun protection and a light jacket in case of rain and or cooler weather. If you're going into a heavily wooded area, dressing them in bright colors will help you keep an eye on them as they wander. KEEN is a great shoe brand that has highly rated exploring kicks for kiddos. They provide shock absorption, minimizing any impact your children's feet make on the ground.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Kids sure do love that game, so play along and let them lead the way! Obviously, you are the head honcho in charge and responsible for getting the family out the door, but there are plenty of ways you can give your babes some control, and encourage confidence, once you get to your outdoor destination. Let them set the pace, take pictures, explore, pick the lunch spot, or make up their own games and inventions...just make sure to put everything back before leaving! Bring a few toys from home if you think that'll add to their imagination and enhance their adventure. Believe in your kids, as you believe in yourself!
HAVE FUN & GO WITH THE FLOW
The biggest trick in the book is to have fun yourself. If you're not having fun, they're not going to. No matter what, try to stay upbeat and happy, children can feel your energy! Make sure you have realistic expectations going on a hiking outing with littles. Pick a short and interesting hike that allows everyone the freedom to roam, possibly with a waterfall, overlook, or historic site along the route. Throw some games into the mix to keep that high energy going, like "I Spy" or even a scavenger hunt. You can throw a magnifying glass into their travel pack and turn the day into a learning experience, studying the different plants and creepy crawlers. Go over the length of the trail, trail etiquette, how to use a compass, and how to read a map. Do you know how many people don't know how to read a map?! Hiking with your tots isn't about getting from point A to point B, it's about making lifelong memories, bonding, and exploring the trail and what's on it. And just remember...there's a bottle of wine waiting for you when you get home!