I’m trying to get outdoors more with my kids this summer. I don’t just mean playing at the park, or splashing at the beach — I mean outdoors, as in “outdoorsy.” Hiking, camping, that sort of thing.
My oldest is 5, the youngest is 2 1/2, and we’ve gone on a few family hikes this summer, usually sticking to routes a mile or less within the city. But once or twice I’ve stretched it out to a longer trek in the mountains outside the city and it’s been a little stressful.
There’s something challenging about hiking with younger kids. They either bound ahead of you exploring, or they doddle behind and you have to drag them down the path.
Tanya Koob writes a blog about her family’s adventures in the Rocky Mountains. She takes her kids out into the wilderness every month of the year. They’ve hiked in the snow, camped in the rain, done it all.
Her blog has been a great inspiration to get my kids outdoors, and recently she wrote about things you need to know about hiking with kids:
Find Their Friends 1 of 7
Tanya says when you "give a child a friend to hike with and you are essentially giving them a superman cape." Having a buddy along will distract them from the distance you're traveling and keep them more engaged in the activity since they're sharing it with a peer.
Choose Interesting Trails 2 of 7
Don't just pick something flat and easy. Find a path that has meadows, rocks, valleys, rivers, and more. Tanya says "any hike we do has to have at least a couple of features." The variety keeps surprising them and piques their interest for the next discovery. You could also look along your route for possible geocaches to turn it into a treasure hunt.
Plan for Free Time 3 of 7
"Kids of any age aren't going to go for a long hike without stopping to play and explore," Tanya warns. "Walking in and of itself is not an adventure." All those interesting features you planned in your hike? Budget time for kids to explore them.
Know When to Start (And When to Finish) 4 of 7
Depending on the age of your kids, you should schedule your hikes around naps, snack, and meal times. Tanya also knows that not every hike goes as planned and it's okay to give up. "Often the smartest thing you can do is recognize the hike is not going well, turn around and just go back to the car," she admits. "Stop for ice cream on the way home and try again another day."
Keep It to 5K 5 of 7When planning your route, it doesn't matter if you find a loop or an out-and-back trail, what matters more is the distance. A 5 km / 3 mile hike is about the limit my 5 yr old can handle right now. We time it to have lunch at the halfway point, and it makes for a fun 3 hours outdoors.
Gear Up! 6 of 7
Don't think you just have to be limited to what your kids can handle by walking. Tanya has gear to stretch out their hikes. A Chariot stroller lets the kids sleep, gives her an extra workout, and doubles as a place to store gear. The Piggyback Rider (pictured) get kids up above your shoulders for a great view. It keeps them secure and is more comfortable than them just riding your shoulders.
Image Credit RockiesFamilyAdventures
Don’t Underestimate Them 7 of 7If it's a good day, don't be afraid to challenge them. Sure, you want to play safe, but on this particular hike, guess which path had the stunning views of a Rocky Mountain valley? Like a metaphor for life, the more difficult path has the best reward.
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