Hiking with kids is a fantastic way to build family bonds while getting exercise. So when it comes to family hikes, can there be too much of a good thing? Unfortunately, if you push your young family members too hard, the answer may be “yes.” To make your hikes as enjoyable and as beneficial as possible, keep your youngsters’ limitations in mind as you plan your adventures.
Keep Your Expectations in Check
Your children probably can’t walk as far as you nor go as quickly as you. Therefore, it’s important to realize that you probably won’t get as far on a family hike as you could on your own. That’s okay, and if you set your expectations accordingly, everyone will have great fun.
Especially if your tots are still quite young or don’t have much experience with hiking, even half a mile might be farther than they can go. Therefore, you may want to start with easy trails that are only about a quarter-mile long. As they build experience and endurance, you can gradually increase the length and difficulty of your treks.
If you find that your children are wearing out sooner than you expected, be flexible. To keep their enthusiasm for this activity high, you might need to bow out before reaching your intended destination.
Plan for Breaks and Detours
Another way to help young hikers who are running low on energy is to take plenty of breaks. Let your family sit down, lie in the grass or dip their barefoot toes in a creek. This small break may be enough to recharge them for the rest of the hike. Just keep in mind that you may need to take several of these breaks over the course of your walk.
Additionally, young people are naturally curious. If your little ones spot something that interests them, such as an insect, a plant or a rock formation, take time to explore it. No, you may not have planned for this diversion, but it can boost your family’s interest in hikes and help create unforgettable memories.
Offer Ways to Engage
If your youngsters seem to quickly grow bored on a hike, consider ways to help them connect to the experience. For example, let them help pick out which trail you take. Offer an incentive for reaching the end of the trail, such getting to see a spectacular view or sitting down for a picnic lunch.
Along the way, make conversation with your kids. Talk about their favorite topics, or ask “Would you rather?” questions. You can even play a scavenger hunt game in which kids try to spot various plants, animals, rocks or signs along the trail.
Taking a hike with young people requires that you be prepared to meet their needs along the way. Dressing in layers and wearing supportive shoes will help children stay comfortable with each step. Bringing snacks and drinks will keep your family fueled for the walk.
For your littlest hikers, you may need a backpack-style carrier. Short legs simply can’t keep up sometimes, but a carrier will allow your whole family to enjoy longer, more satisfying hikes together.
Hiking as a family can be a valuable experience. By keeping your youngsters’ limits in mind, you’ll be setting the stage for a fun, memorable trip.