A family that hikes together stays together. This rings true to just about any activity you share with your kids. But hiking is the absolute outdoor activity that can teach your kids real life lessons. So when they’re all grown up, they can be able to look back and say, “Those were good precious times!”
If, as parents, you’re always in pursuit of never-ending fun activities for your young ones, the best way to always have a unique experience every single time is, none other than, connecting with nature. Would you rather have them glued onto their gadget screens all day mastering those pointless games and applications? Or watch those endless expeditions from the interesting tandem of a monkey and a girl (Dora) with her backpack? Why don’t you let your kids take their own backpacks and do the explorations themselves in a real trail?
What are the Pros and Cons of Hiking with Your Kids?
I’m not saying hiking with your kids is like Dora’s easy-breezy and happily-depicted adventures, believe it or not, it does have its burdens. If you have three hungry, tired, bored, and frantic, kids screaming at you from all directions, you’d probably wish you packed the television set as well to keep them down! Other disadvantages you could face when hiking with kids is too much luggage (I don’t mean your kids, literally) if you don’t pack the appropriate gear and this can cause extreme stress from having to watch over your kids and carry a huge load on your shoulders (literally and metaphorically). Also, although you might need this time for you to get in touch with nature yourself, you might save your jungle frolicking some other time because hiking with your kids will lead to restricted activities.
Don’t let this bring you down though, the pros in hiking with your kids weigh heavier than the cons. The best thing you can get out of hiking with your little ones is the quality time spent together (you know how kids are when they reach junior high!). Take advantage of this time to connect, bond, and learn a lot from your kids. Savor this moment when they still cling to you even for the little things they need because they won’t be clinging onto you forever, mind you. This is also a great chance for you and your kids to meet new friends who are in the same outdoor boat. Who knows, you could end up planning more hiking trips with new friends more often than you think!
What Can Your Kids Learn in Hiking?
Okay, enough about you. Now let’s move on to the main attraction – your kids. Aside from having loads of fun and adventure in the wilderness, your kids will learn valuable life lessons and these are just some of them:
Your kids will learn, at a young age, that hard work pays off. If they push themselves (and not whine for every difficult trail they encounter), they will realize everything doesn’t have to be handed down on a silver platter.
This will really teach your kids that a role model (hiking guide) is very valuable to accomplish something positive in their lives or to reach the simplest of goals.
They will open their eyes to the fact that there’s more to cartoon shows, mobile game applications, or expensive toys. There is a natural world outside of the digital world which is more amazing!
Hiking will train them resilience. If they fall, they can dust themselves, get back up, and continue on to more adventures along the way!
How to Choose the Best Daypacks for Hiking?
I know you’re probably giddy and ready to take on the next hiking adventure with your kids but before you do, make sure you choose the best daypacks for hiking. This is an essential gear which will make or break the whole trip. A good daypack for short hikes can be around 10 liters or less. You can try to look for additional features like a hydration reservoir, a suspended mesh back panel, or being able to access your stuff easily! After all, your kids should carry their own daypacks, right? And, next to right gears is planning.
Here are top 5 tips when planning for a hike with kids:
1. Pic The Right Trail
This is the most crucial part when planning a hike with your kids. It’s a touch-move rule like in board games. Once you set foot on that trail, there’s no turning back! It probably doesn’t sound worse if you’re taking a solo hike but your kids’ ability is not up to par with yours, for Pete’s sakes! Especially when you’ve exposed them to gadgets since they were young. If you’re hiking with a handful of kids with different fitness levels, choose a trail where everybody meets halfway. You can pick easy trails with clear and maintained paths, and little to no elevation if your kids are first-timers. If your kids have been down this road before, you can opt for trails with minimal ascent added with some roots and obstacles. Either way, make sure to always have their backs.
2. Let Them Be the Leader
Kids act very proudly when they know they’ve impressed their parents or the grown-ups for that matter. Assigning them the responsibility of leading the way will not only give them something to brag about in school but will also give them a sense of achievement. It’s good to start them young, they say. When they lead the journey, they can hike at their own pace, hence, not putting too much pressure on your kids throughout the trip (that means, less whining and complaining!). This also gets you off the hook if you guys get lost, because then you can tell your kids, “I was just following your lead!”. Kidding aside, it’s good to make them feel like they’re big enough to handle the entire hike.
3. Take a Lot of Breaks
You know that feeling when we go through the hustles and bustles of daily life as grown-ups, where we sometimes wish we could trade anything to be drinking that Pinacolada on the white, sandy beaches in Hawaii? Yup. Everybody needs a break! Your kids, on the other hand, would probably want a looooot of them! Kids have fickle minds. They easily get bored and uninterested in things or activities. To avoid a fiasco during your hiking adventure, it’s better to stop every time you think they’re about to have a meltdown. This will give them time to refresh their selves and enjoy other things, like checking out amazing critters, looking at the beautiful flowers and huge trees, or simply enjoying the comfort of sitting for a while. A fun outdoor activity won’t be fun anymore when you act like a military parent from hell. Allow your kids to take breaks and smell the flowers. And if you think they’re all set for another few hundred steps, then you can continue on your way.
4. Pack a Lot of Snacks and Water
One thing that can wreak havoc on your hiking adventure is hungry, tired, and thirsty kids. Unlike you, they aren’t on a diet! They need food to fuel their energy. And as kids, their metabolism is probably a hundred more times faster than yours. Fill their daypacks (or yours) with countless snacks and make sure their water is always filled up. It’s also a great idea to let them carry their backpacks themselves so they can grab whatever goodies they can, if and when they need to. Most of the best hiking daypacks have a hydration reservoir that gives your kids convenience every time they quench their thirsty little mouths. My niece always forgets that she’s about to throw a tantrum whenever we bribe her with her favorite chocolates!
5. Games, Games, Games All Throughout the Hike
I’ve already mentioned that kids’ minds have minds of their own. They change as quickly as the way you dress for work when you’re running late! Their mood swings are inevitable and their interest can go from high to low in one millisecond. The best way you can pique their interest is to play games throughout the hike. There are a lot of trail games you can choose from.
Before you embark on your journey, print possible insects, animals, plants, or things on paper which your kids might see on the way. And let them spot them while you’re following their lead.
Hide and Seek
We know how kids love playing hide and seek, in general. Can you imagine the thrill of playing this game in the wilderness? But always ensure safety by not letting them go very far.
The Alphabet Game
You can start with the letter “A” and let your kids think of something they see around them or along the trail which starts with that letter. As you move on to the next letters in the alphabet, you’ll be surprised at how creative your kids can get!