We spend a lot of time on our road trips hiking with our 5 kids. At the start of each trip it was easy to get 4 miles out of them, but towards the end, the novelty of hiking starts to wear off and we have to get creative, especially with our then 4 and 6-year-olds. Try these 12 tips when you hike with your kids to keep them engaged and motivated.
Bring Extra of Food and Water
When we are hiking with our kids, I am always amazed at the amount of food they can consume! Some of our favorite go-to’s include Cliff Bars, Ritz Crackers, deli meat, cheese, and jerky.Teach your kids to pack out what you pack in.Click To Tweet
Always carry more water than you think you’d need. Make sure the snacks are a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat or you’ll end up with kids with low blood sugar and no energy.
Our five-year-old likes to feel like she is one of the “big kids” and when we hike, she likes to imitate them by carrying her own backpack filled with her own snacks, water, and jacket.
Keep them engaged in their surroundings by playing I Spy or being on the lookout for wildlife. Engage in fun conversation. While hiking we often play Would You Rather.
Let Them Navigate
Give them maps so they can feel like they are leading the way. (Handy hint: If you don’t have a map, take a picture of the trail map that is usually posted at the trail head. It has come in handy for us on A LOT of hikes!)
We bring along one set of traditional hiking sticks and trade off who gets to use them. The best is when you find an actual stick on the trail and can use it to hike with. It also serves a multipurpose for little boys as a weapon or staff to engage their imaginations.
Give Them A Camera
Our youngest loves to film herself on the trail while we are hiking. Our oldest daughter always carries a Canon Rebel and gets amazing shots of the trail that I would probably miss.
Find Challenging Terrain
This may seem counterintuitive, but when we hike, I try to find an intermediate or advanced trail. Flat or well-maintained trails tend to be boring, while trails with rocks to scramble over or roots to step on, keep my kids’ minds and imaginations engaged.
We bring some webbing that we use for rock climbing and use it as make shift backpack to carry our four-year-old. She only needs 5-10 minutes in it at a time (and she’s a little big for a regular backpack) so it’s just enough to give her a second wind and it’s super light to carry along.
I love the sound and silence of nature, but sometimes the trail gets really long and you need more distraction/entertainment. We pull out our iPhones and start singing to our favorite songs. You’d be surprised how far you can travel in one song.
National Park Resources
Pick up junior ranger booklets at national parks or look up fun facts ahead of time and use it to teach along the way. When we take breaks the kids enjoy completing a few pages of the junior ranger booklets. A lot of state parks also have resources to engage kids in nature.
Give them a Goal
We don’t like using sugar as a reward, but after a 2 hour hike they earned it. A little bribery goes a long way and we find the motivation of an ice cream or going out for a burger at the end really helps.
Take more friends along. Our youngest son is known for being the master whiner when we are hiking, but when his cousin is hiking with him all of a sudden he can hike six miles without a complaint.Hiking and enjoying nature together as family creates memories for a lifetime!Click To Tweet
When hiking with kids, remember to dress in layers, go at their pace, and enjoy the journey!
Get your kids fit to hike with this fun workout that you can do as a family!