Going on a family hike is one of the best ways to encourage kids to connect with Mother Nature and be active at the same time. But not all children are for hikes. Their reasons are aplenty: “It’s too hot,” “I’d rather stay at home and be with my phone,” or even “Is it even Instagram-worthy?”
In reality, hiking is not IG-worthy or an overall comfortable experience. As a result, parents have to endure the whining, complaining and endless “Are we there yet?” questions from impatient kids. Some children even go as far as “Well, OK. I’ll come, but I’ll need a new pair of Xtratuf shoes, though.”
Instead of succumbing to the cajoling and bribery, try to make the whole hiking experience fun for the kids. Create more memories with the family by considering the following ideas.
Plan Your Hike Together
Kids are most likely to join when they have a say in the planning. Even if they are too young to even pick the location, give them choices. Should you climb some rocks? Is it better to walk by a river? How about the family searches for the biggest tree?
Build up the anticipation for the trip while giving them a sense of ownership over it. Think of it this way: no one likes getting dragged to trips they didn’t even plan. Give your kids options. Together, you browse online for guidebooks so you can plan your hike as a family.
When planning the hike with the kids, be flexible and have fun. If these are your goals, everyone will be happy. Remember: you’re trying to introduce your family to hiking. They won’t enjoy it if things go according to your plan, but they don’t have a say in it. Change plans if things are not working out.
Choose a Hike with Different Terrains and Features
Exploring makes everyone better, which is why you should be flexible with your trails.
Consider your trail options. To make hikes more interesting and active, go for trails with plenty of bridges, logs, rocks, boardwalks or creeks. Find trails with things kids can do like climbing or playing. These features can also spark their imagination as they pretend to be walking through monster-infested waters.
Also, brainstorm ways you can entertain your kids along the hike. Throw rocks into a pond, hike with benches or play in a shelter. Finally, hiking trips with plenty of flowers and animals can be entertaining and interesting for your children.
For the older kids, choose quick-changing surroundings to hold up their interests. Tell them to watch out for a specific species of tree exclusive to that area or the upcoming river crossing.
Everyone Should Have a “Job”
Kids appreciate trips more if they are in charge of something. On the trail, assign roles to your children. Let them take turns leading the group. The leaders get compasses and maps. They also get to choose the trail you’re hiking. Let the leaders hold the map and lead the way of the trail (with your guidance, of course).
The other children can serve as the medic who is in charge of carrying the first-aid kit. Photography-savvy and IG-aesthetic expert kids are in charge of the photos.
Pack Plenty of Snacks
Kids burn off calories faster than adults. Along the way, they’ll need more fuel for their energy tanks. Pack a variety of snacks for your trip. Ask your children what they want to eat and have them help you pack the snacks or carry the food in their packs. Hiking is also a good time to break their favorite treats that you reserve for special occasions.
Go at Their Pace
Let your children set the pace for the hike, even if it’s slower than your normal pace. For most kids, the journey is more important than the destination. Allow plenty of time for the hike and refrain from rushing the kids so you won’t miss the opportunity of checking things out. A slower pace also enables you to see everything at your children’s level. Most kids, especially the younger ones, want to touch everything. They’re inevitably going to find things that you miss.
Be the Rewarding Parent
The mere fact your kids joined a hike with you deserves a reward. Give them rewards like small treats when you reach certain landmarks. An end-of-hike reward may also motivate them to finish the hike despite being tired. Once they reach the end, let them pick where to go to eat — whether it’s at their favorite lunch spot or frozen yogurt place. If their spirits are low during the hike, dangle this reward to encourage them.
Hikes are one of the best ways to build memories with your children. Connect with your kids and encourage physical activity by taking them on a hike they’ll love.