Hiking with kids can strengthen family bonds, build self-esteem, introduce responsibility, and provide a host of relaxation moments. Kids get the exercise they need while spending quality family time.
Here are tips to keep hiking with kids stress-free:
The Right Trail
The perfect trail for children is one that is easy yet offers a lot of exciting features, appeals to their senses, and is safe for exploration. Whether your end goal is splashing in a waterfall or finding a bird’s nest, kids will love a trail where they find “treasures” along the way. Make it fun by encouraging everyone to look for points of interest, colorful bird feathers, or rocks that are shaped like hearts. They’ll be happy to keep moving while connecting with nature and seeking treasures.
“Connect with nature and refresh your mind. You will leave your worries behind.”
(From Angry Octopus Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm Coloring Book.)
The Right Gear and Hiking Essentials
Make sure that you and the kids are wearing shoes and clothes appropriate for the terrain and the climate. Involve children in the process of preparing their own backpacks. This gives them a sense of responsibility and shows them that they are capable.
Here is a list of essentials to bring on your hike:
- Backpacks – Age and size appropriate.
- Water – Lots of it. Hydrate ahead of time too.
- Snacks – High in protein.
- Sunscreen – Apply ahead of time.
- First-aid kit –Band-Aids, Neosporin, Anti-Itch Cream.
- Bug spray or convenient wipes.
- Map or compass – Never too soon to introduce map reading skills.
- Wet wipes – Some kids get upset about dirty hands. Also, good before snack.
- Whistles for each child – If extra safety precaution is wanted.
- Extra clothes – Especially socks.
- Light weight picnic blanket – For snack time or relaxation time.
- Sketch book or coloring book – So fun to sit and sketch.
- One pair of binoculars – Looking up and ahead is a mood enhancer.
The Right Hiking Plan
Hiking can drain your energy and kids who feel tired will get cranky fast. Take many small breaks for the young hikers to regain their strength and motivation. Breaks are a great time to Introduce children to the relaxation technique of diaphragmatic breathing. Deep slow breaths can boost energy levels, improve stamina, and reduce stress. You can read a story ahead of time that shows children how to breathe in this way. (A Boy and A Bear, and Sea Otter Cove do just that.) You can even take turns setting goals to take a break. Be creative, like saying that you’ll take a break once you reach “that bent over tree” or after you find “three triangle shaped rocks.”
The Mindful Approach
Hiking truly is about slowing down and enjoying the journey. Practice being mindful and fully present. Encourage your family to connect with nature. Let the kids sit down and watch leaves floating on a stream or observe a slug slowly making its way across a rock. Be prepared to slow down, crunch leaves, or look for animal tracks. Incorporate relaxation by challenging your kids to slow down and use turtle energy.
“When you feel your insides rushing around, use turtle energy to slow yourself down.”
(From Angry Octopus Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm coloring book.)
The Right Attitude
Keeping a good attitude provides an opportunity to introduce positive statements or affirmations. You may hear lots of “I can’t do it” statements or some whining about being tired. Replace negative comments with positive solutions, like “I can do this if I take my time” or “I am going to rest for a few minutes, so I can continue.” (Affirmation Weaver is a story that introduces children to the power of positive statements.)
Despite all the activity and excitement, hiking with your kids can be incredibly relaxing if you allow it to be. To make your hiking trip stress-free, take it easy and let the kids enjoy the experience. When hiking with your kids, the journey is just as meaningful as the destination.
Lori Lite is a mom, founder of Stress Free Kids, and author. After helping her own children, Lori understood that her mission was to help other parents and children struggling with stress, anger, and self-esteem. Her award-winning titles are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, and teachers. Lori’s constant upbeat presence on social media has been awarded numerous accolades to include Top 100 Parenting Experts to follow on Twitter. Her sought after practical tips have been featured in hundreds of media outlets, including CBS News, CNN Living, WebMD, and Family Circle magazine.