How Not to Hike With Kids

*This is a guest post by Traci Lehman of Walk Simply*

Hiking is an outdoor activity that almost everyone can appreciate and even small children can take part in the adventure. Kids, though, can be challenging and unless you are taking a very short walk a little bit of planning can go a long way to make the experience pleasant for all.

The best way to ensure you have a terrible time on the trail is to not motivate the kids, not have fun, not fuel the kids with food, and not inspire them.  I have never succeeded in completing each item on this list in one outing, but I have taken hikes without snacks (don’t ever try this or you will be tortured) and occasionally without my patience (yikes).  This is a list of what not to do and what you should do instead. Accomplish the opposite of how not to hike with kids and the odds of a delightful adventure skyrocket.

How NOT to hike with kids (and the right way)

Don’t feed them

Instead: Bring snacks and lots of them. First, give the kids a full meal before you head out. You might be tempted to stop there, but don’t. Bring lots of snacks, because kids love to munch while hiking and they are not shy when it comes to letting you know. In fact, hiking induced whining frequently happens and it’s nothing a little snack can’t cure. Keep the kids fed and you’ll keep the adults happy. Trust me on this; bring more snacks than you think you’ll need.

Snacks for kids

Snack Suggestions, finger foods work best:

  • Fruits – apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, tangerines, blueberries
  • Nuts – cashews, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, trail mix
  • Veggies – carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers
  • Dairy – string cheese, yogurt tubes, cubed cheese
  • Crackers, pretzels, granola bars

Another idea, and a fun one is to give the kids a snack before hiking, pack a lunch, and have a picnic as part of hike. A picnic is a nice reward for hiking hard and will give you and the children a boost for the return trip.

Don’t Have any Fun

Instead: Bring friends, play games, and explore.

How not to hike with kids

  • Friends – any hike instantly becomes an awesome hike if friends are invited. Hiking with friends strengthen friendships, friends teach us new things, and conversations are always better with friends.
  • Games – Any game is a good game.  My kids love to play games on the trail. This is the neat thing about kids: they are enthusiastic about everything. Our current favorite is the question game of Would you rather. To play this game all you need is patience and a creative mind. Scavenger hunts and I Spy are fun too.
  • Explore Perhaps the most exciting aspect of hiking is trail and area exploration. Let the kids stop, look and listen. What do they see and hear? Teach your children what you know about the plants and animals nearby. Pick a trail where you can hike over rocks or under bridges. Obstacles are a sure-fire hit with little ones. Even better pick a hike that has a water feature such as a creek or waterfall and then spend as much time as you can playing in the water.

Don’t Be Flexible or Have Patience

Instead: Stay composed, be calm, and go with the flow.

Explore with kids

Children can sometimes be unpredictable (surprise!). Knowing this and expecting the unexpected can help keep the hike lighthearted and enjoyable for everyone. Keep hikes within everyone’s ability and think ahead how you will handle certain situations (or emergencies) when they arise. Have a back-up plan and don’t fret if you need to end a hike early. The key is to keep everyone happy on the trail.

Exploring with kids

Lessons learned

A hike with kids can be a challenge, however; with a little preparedness certain trials can be avoided or minimized. Do bring snacks. Do bring friends. Do have fun. Do explore. Do play. Do be flexible and remain calm.

Do hike.

-Traci Lehman is a wife and mom who shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close.

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Traci Lehman
Traci Lehman is an IT Analyst by trade and when she’s not in the office she shares her walking and outdoor adventures on Walk Simply. Based in Southern California, Traci hopes to inspire others to go outside, enjoy the little things, and view our world up-close. Follow along on her adventures and keep up on her newest contributions here, on her own blog or on Twitter.

7 comments on “How Not to Hike With Kids

  • Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this. I have always wondered how we would work up to something like this.. I have a 3 year old son, and love to be outdoors :)

  • This advise is great! I have nieces and a nephew and I am looking forward to going hiking in the future.

  • Good ideas. Most importantly is to keep perspective re a childs abilities and age. If you hike with kids the hike should be for them. Likewise with fishing, biking or most other outdoor activities. Nothing is sadder than seeing a youngster struggling on a bike ride (or other activity) with a parent who iinsists that we must move at my fitness level because I need the workout..

  • Another way to keep the kids having fun on the trail: If you have an old digital camera (or one you don’t mind letting them use) let them have total control and let them take pics of whatever they find interesting. When you get home to upload photos, create a folder for them so they are able to see what they found, and also view the photos with them the night before the next hike, that will get them excited for the next trip. It’s also pretty cool to see how their photography improves over time if done on a regular basis.

  • Also remember bug spray during months where bugs are a problem! I made this mistake last month and both my daughter and I got bit up a lot and had to end the hike early. We still had fun in the beginning though.

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