Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids is a great way to vacation together in the great outdoors and spend quality time with your children.

Consider this – no TV, no computer games, just you and your family hiking in the wilderness, enjoying the fresh air, the peace and quiet, the amazing scenery, the wildlife, birds, plants and more. Your children may object when they realize they won’t have a TV to watch or music to listen to, but with so much to see and do out here, their senses will soon be heightened and any thoughts of TV’s and computers will be left behind!

Benefits of Hiking with Kids

There are so many benefits to hiking with the family, for both you and your children. You, and your surrounds, will have your kids' undivided attention. When you're hiking with kids, you really get to spend quality time with them; time to talk about all manner of things, many of which will no doubt be about all the great things you're seeing!

If you're not familiar with native trees, plants, birds and wildlife species, why not buy a book or two before you set out? Field guides are designed to be used out in the "field" and are usually small enough to fit in your pocket or backpack to take out for easy reference. Each time you or your kids see a new plant or a bird, see if you can find them in your book - or better still - let your children try to find them!

You also might find your kids opening up on all sorts of subjects: school, friends, something that's been bugging them, or just something they've been curious about. They won't even notice they're opening up to you! It's a wonderful gift to give a child your undivided time and attention and, for some of us, this requires us to get out of the house and away from our day-to-day obligations. It works the same way with kids... When they're not distracted by their belongings (toys, books, electronics,...) it frees their minds to wander and wonder. And even when you have teenagers who appear to want very little of your time, you might be amazed at how they open up when you hike together!

There's also a sense of accomplishment that goes along with hiking. You're giving your kids great life lessons, without them even knowing it: Show them how to set realistic goals (by choosing a hiking trail), plan (carefully loading your backpacks with the things you'll need, bringing enough water, ensurin you have enough time to complete the entire hike,...) and how to reach those goals through effort and determination. It's especially rewarding if you're hiking to some beautiful destination, like a waterfall or great view, but you can teach these same lessons just about anywhere you hike if you let the kids get involved in the planning. Be sure to celebrate the accomplishment (whatever it may be) when you're finished with your hike.

Another major benefit to hiking with the family is, of course, the exercise you'll all be getting. Hiking sometimes conjures ideas of being gone for days, out in the wilds, but hiking need not be lengthy or strenuous. A short hike through a nearby park can give you the same benefits as a longer hiking trail at a national park.

Hiking with kids, especially with younger children, is best if restricted to a few hours each time. Especially if you're just getting started (are started back) with hiking, choose routes which are suitable for your kids' abilities and attention levels. This will keep everyone happy and comfortable, ready to take another hike again soon. It also leaves you and your children time and energy to enjoy other outdoor adventure activities.

Be Prepared

As any experienced hiker will tell you, make sure you're well prepared for all eventualities! You want to travel as light as possible while making sure you have everything you need.

Water is the most important thing – whether you're hiking with kids or along. Ensure you have plenty of this for the whole family. You should also bring extra clothes in case you get caught in a storm or sudden change of temperature. A small first aid kit (for short hikes) can mean the difference between a delightful afternoon and some miserable hours of whining about blisters, scratches, or other boo boos (not just the kids' whining either!)

Sunblock, plus hats and sunglasses (depending on where you're hiking) can be equally important, and a change of socks is a good idea for longer hikes (or if you're hiking near irresistable water!) in case someone gets wet feet! Finally, make sure you know where you're going – have a good map and a compass with you as the last thing you want on your family hiking trip is to get lost!

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