It’s no secret that many children grow up leading a sedentary lifestyle. To make matters worse, they eat fast food and they snack often. If you want to lead your children toward a healthier lifestyle, you need to get them into good habits at a young age. This doesn’t mean you need to force them into going on a hike with you. In most cases, they will be more than willing to go, but if that’s not the case, wait until they’re ready. Otherwise, you will wish you had never brought them along. Hiking with children isn’t only great for kids because of the lifestyle it can establish, but it also offers great fun for the family.
Next time you go on a hike with your children – or if it’s the first time bringing them along – be sure to take advantage of some of the activities mentioned in this article. We’ll start with a few basic activities and then work our way up toward what they will find the most enjoyable activity of all.
If your kids are into science – or even if they’re simply the curious type – research all the types of trees on the trail you will be hiking prior to departing. If you already know trees well, even better. Either way, challenging your children to identify different types of trees can keep the hike exciting for them. If they get a few wrong, still encourage them and tell them it’s okay. Remember, you want this to be an enjoyable experience for them, not an outdoor quiz. Another similar type of activity that can be a lot of fun is to search for bugs. Challenging them to find a caterpillar or spider will usually go over well, and they will be filled with excitement once they spot one. If you’re children aren’t into trees and insects, you can ask them to guess what type of dog they will see next. Anyone can have a chance at being successful at this game; therefore, no child will feel intimidated. You can also ask them to guess how many dogs you guys will see during the hike. If their guess is closer than yours, you can take them out for ice cream afterwards. Hint: take them out for ice cream either way.
If you really want to make a hike special, go to an area where you can safely go swimming in a lake, river, or watering hole. This can be a lot of fun, especially since swimming locations along a trail will be far away from the stresses of everyday life. You will all have a true country experience and you should all enjoy it immensely. Some areas even have natural water slides made of smooth rock. If there is an area like this near you, definitely take advantage of it. If swimming isn’t an option, or you simply prefer to stay dry, see if you can find a trail that has a waterfall. Don’t tell your children about the waterfall. It will be much better and more of a memorable experience if it’s a surprise. If you live in more of a desert-like terrain, try to find an area with a cave or interesting rock formations. Of course, only go hiking in these areas when the temperature is less than 90 degrees.
Regardless of what your destination is, it’s always a good idea to pack a lunch that you can eat at your halfway point. Keep in mind that children get tired faster than adults. A small lunch will provide them with plenty of energy to get through the rest of the hike. Another good idea is to pretend as though you don’t have as much food as you actually have in your backpack. By doing so, you can teach them the importance of sharing, especially when low on supplies. Whether they respond well to this or not, you can take out the remainder of the food after you have observed their response – and possibly took advantage of a teachable moment. This can also be a good lead-in as to what you should do in certain survival situations.
While all the activities above can be fun and act as great challenges – as well as character builders – the most enjoyable activity on a family hike is storytelling. You can begin the storytelling yourself, but encourage them to do the same. This is a great confidence builder.