Hiking can be an easy and fun way to introduce your kids to the mountains, nature and getting active. It can have its challenges though if not you are not prepared. Here are some things we’ve learned over the years to ensure we have a safe, fun and happy hiking adventure with our kids.
Make sure kids are Well fed before heading out.
This seems like an obvious one, but if we’ve had breakfast or lunch and wait to head out a couple of hours after with only a small snack in their bodies, they won’t make it. And there will be a lot of grumbling. Plan the hike around kids having filled tummies so they have enough energy to get going.
Bring SNACKS!! And lot’s of them!
I can’t emphasize this enough! My boys are motivated by food, so when they know they’ll have yummy snacks during their hike, they’re more game to keep going. I’ll make special protein energy bites, bring dates, trail mix and energy bars. Plus some of those things they don’t eat often, so it feels “special” getting to have them. Plus kids and us, need the fuel/energy for the hike back! Also, of course, bring Water. Everyone has their own big water bottles we fill up before leaving. For Winter hiking, we’ll sometimes bring along a thermos of Hot Chocolate to!
Have good clothes & Gear!
Nothing says “this hike is done” when kids are freezing or overheating. It’s just miserable. Always plan ahead with extra clothes when heading out, weather can change really fast out there. Rain coats, fleece jackets/vests, touques, mitts, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, cooling bandanas for summer. (dependant on the season) We always make our kids wear their snow gear in Winter adventures, so they will stay warm but also so they can run and jump into snow piles; without getting wet & feeling miserable, the rest of the hike. We have microspikes for our boots in winter, So we can safely walk along ice without risking falls. Good shoes or hiking boots for kids is important too, so they have good foot support on those trails.
During summer months, when Bears are awake and about, we always bring Bear Spray with us and ensure the boys don’t run ahead of us on the trails. Keep kids close, especially when out in country where wild animals are present. We teach the kids to make lot’s of noise when we’re out; something that comes by them naturally! In Winter, especially, we also make sure they stay on the trails. With lot’s of snow on the ground it can get hard to see where a trail drops off over an edge. Our boys are learning to practice being safe and having fun while being outdoors.
Plan your time & distance out, on your kids ages
When my boys were little we’d head out for small, easy hikes to start. My oldest is naturally athletic and has lot’s of energy, my youngest, not so much. So we’d do smaller 2-3 km hikes/ nature walks to get started, when they were a young age. Now my boys (almost 11yr & 7yrs) can hike upward of 7-10km and get some elevation in there too. Start small to see how your kids enjoy it and as they get older, you can find more challenging hikes to do.
Lastly, make it fun!
Kids can get “bored” easy just “walking” sometimes. When those moments come up, find some fun ways to keep their attention or help them learn about nature and animals. Easy Scavenger hunts is a great way to learn about animals & nature. How many different birds can you see, or how many different kinds of pinecones or trees can you find? Or what do you think made that footprint?! Pocket guides/brochures are a great way to keep an eye open for cool bugs or butterflies. My boys are older now so they have taken to doing a game called “spies”. Where they pretend they’re out in the wilds of a jungle and have to evade enemy combatants. They just came up with it on their own, and have a great time!
We found when we started getting them out at an early age, they have come to Love being out in the mountains and nature. And they get excited about heading out on a day adventure! Don’t Give Up! We’ve had our fair share of tears on the trails, but we’ve pushed through and then heard afterward, “this was the best hike ever!!”
Hope these few tips help you as you head out for fun family adventures. Happy Hiking!
Written by – Jaime Petkau, RLAG Ambassador