When you go for a family walk or hike, it’s a good idea to bring a map, sturdy hiking boots, and a thermos of hot chocolate with marshmallows. It’s not just about getting exercise; it also helps your family bond, makes you feel good mentally, and might even help you get to bed early! Sometimes parents feel sad when their kids don’t like walking. They complain after a short distance and want to be carried. I’ve been in that situation too, and it can be tough for parents who love being outside and want their kids to enjoy nature as well.
That’s why I want to share our best tips for hiking with kids, especially those under 5 years old. These tips include advice for hiking with toddlers and making it a fun experience. When kids have fun, they usually walk more, and that makes parents happier too! I also want to mention that these tips are based on what worked for our family. Every family is different, so not all the suggestions may work for everyone. That’s okay. My hope is that you can find a few ideas here that will be helpful during your next adventure in the countryside.
12 Tips for Hiking with Kids
1. Say goodbye to the stroller and baby carrier
When you go hiking as a family, it’s best to leave the stroller and baby carrier at home. Some parents still use carriers when walking with their toddlers, but it means the little ones aren’t really walking. Plus, the fresh outdoor air and gentle rocking of the carrier can make them fall asleep.
Once your child reaches 18 months old, stop using the carrier during hikes and only use the stroller when absolutely necessary. It may make your progress slower as your children start walking on their own, and even short distances can take a long time. But without the stroller or carrier, the temptation to use them will disappear. Your children will gradually get used to the fun of hiking from a young age.
This approach requires patience from you as parents. However, the rewards will be worth it. You’ll be thrilled to see your children develop a love for hiking, and you might even enjoy the bonus of a longer, refreshing nap in the afternoon after your outdoor adventures.
2. Bring plenty of snacks and water
When you’re hiking with kids, it’s important to pack more snacks than you think you’ll need. Snacks are great for keeping their energy levels up. Start with healthy options like fruits, granola bars, or trail mix. But as the hike progresses, a special treat like Haribo or marshmallows can work wonders in keeping them motivated and excited. Trust me, it really gets them moving!
In addition to snacks, make sure to bring enough water to keep everyone hydrated. It’s essential to stay refreshed during the hike. If you’re hiking in colder months, a flask of hot chocolate can be a delightful treat to warm up with along the way. Just imagine sipping on a cozy cup of hot chocolate while enjoying the crisp outdoor air. It’s sure to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
3. Start your hike early in the morning
It’s a good idea to begin your hike early in the day when you’re with kids. Mornings are usually when kids have the most energy and are in a better mood. Remember, the walk tends to take longer than you expect, so it’s important not to rush the kids. However, it’s essential to make sure they’re at least walking in the right direction. Otherwise, you might find yourselves still far from your car as night falls.
By starting early, you give yourselves ample time to enjoy the hike and explore the surroundings without feeling rushed. It also allows for breaks along the way, such as stopping to admire a beautiful view or have a picnic. So, set those alarm clocks a little earlier and embark on your adventure with the sun shining and the day full of possibilities.
4. Choose comfortable hiking boots for kids
When it comes to hiking, having the right footwear is essential for both adults and kids. It’s important to invest in good, comfortable hiking boots specifically designed for children. These boots provide the necessary support and protection for their little feet as they traverse various terrains.
Look for boots that are sturdy, yet flexible, allowing for natural movement. They should have a good grip on the soles to prevent slips and falls. Comfort is key, so opt for boots with cushioning and a proper fit to avoid any discomfort or blisters during the hike.
Make sure to involve your child in the process of selecting their hiking boots. Take them to a store where they can try them on and ensure they feel comfortable and secure. This way, they’ll be excited to wear their boots and feel like a true adventurer on the hiking trails.
Remember, investing in quality hiking boots for your kids is a smart decision. It will not only make their hiking experience more enjoyable but also provide them with the necessary support and protection for their little feet along the journey.
5. Dress appropriately with the right gear for hiking
Living in the UK means we’re no strangers to unpredictable weather, especially in places like the Peak District where conditions can vary greatly between the escarpments and valleys. The key to handling this ever-changing climate is to dress in layers.
Kids, in particular, have a tendency to get hot while running up and down hills and may want to shed their layers. However, once they sit down to have their sandwiches, they quickly feel cold again.
Unless it’s a hot summer day when shorts, a t-shirt, a sun hat, and hiking boots will suffice, our recommended attire for hiking with kids includes:
- Tracksuit bottoms or comfortable trousers
- Waterproof trousers (we highly recommend the ones from Mountain Warehouse)
- A t-shirt
- A hoodie or jumper for added warmth
- A waterproof padded jacket (we love ones that can be folded up small)
- A Peak District Kids snood for extra protection and warmth
- Waterproof mittens (ones that actually stay on are a great choice!)
- A warm hat to keep little heads cozy
By wearing these layers, you can easily adjust your clothing according to the weather conditions, ensuring that your kids stay comfortable and protected throughout the hike. It’s all about being prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way, so you can fully enjoy your outdoor adventure without worrying about the changing temperatures.
6. Make hiking a regular activity
The more often your little ones go hiking, the more comfortable and familiar it will become to them. We recommend making hiking a regular activity, aiming to go on some sort of hike every weekend. It doesn’t always have to be a challenging hike in the hills. Even a simple walk along the beach, through a woodland, or around town can provide an opportunity for outdoor exploration and adventure.
Regular hikes, whether big or small, help children develop a love for being outdoors and being active. It allows them to discover new places, observe nature, and engage their senses in different environments. Each hike offers a chance to learn and experience something new, fostering a sense of curiosity and appreciation for the natural world.
By incorporating hiking into your regular routine, you create a family tradition of spending quality time together in nature. It’s a wonderful way to bond, share stories, and create lasting memories. So, lace up those hiking boots, grab a backpack, and embark on your weekend adventures—it’s time to make hiking a cherished part of your family’s routine.
7. Choose an exciting and engaging hike
While a flat and straightforward hike may seem convenient when you have a little one in a buggy, it can be quite boring for kids. To make the hike enjoyable for them, it’s important to select a route that encourages play and exploration!
Look for hikes that offer hills to run down, trees or boulders to climb, opportunities to encounter animals, and features like stiles and gates that add a sense of adventure. These elements break up the hike and provide exciting moments along the way. Remember to allocate ample time for these mini adventures because even a short distance of 1 kilometer can easily take an hour when little explorers are involved!
By choosing an interesting and engaging hike, you create an environment that sparks curiosity and imagination. Kids will eagerly anticipate what awaits them around each corner, whether it’s a hidden treasure or a fascinating creature. These interactive elements make the hike more enjoyable and memorable for everyone involved.
So, when planning your hike, seek out routes that offer opportunities for play, discovery, and adventure. Let your little ones immerse themselves in the wonders of nature as they climb, explore, and engage with their surroundings. The smiles, laughter, and joyful memories created during these hikes will make it all worth it!
8. Make hiking fun with games, songs, and engagement
When going on hikes with little ones, it’s important to keep them engaged and entertained throughout the journey.
1. Singing songs
One of the most interesting activities is singing songs like “Going on a Bear Hunt” (based on the book by Michael Rosen). You can adapt the song to include fun verses about things you encounter along the way, like animal poo! This always brings smiles and laughter to everyone’s faces.
We’re going on a bear hunt (We’re going on a bear hunt)
We’re going to catch a big one (We’re going to catch a big one)
We’re not scared (We’re not scared)
What a beautiful day! (What a beautiful day)
Uh-oh! Grass! Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it,
Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!
2. “Nature shopping list” game
Another exciting game to play is the “nature shopping list.” Give the kids a list of items to find, such as a feather, stone, stick, or leaf. For older kids, you can make the list more challenging, like finding something spikey, something yellow, or something smooth. This game encourages them to explore their surroundings during the family hike, and they can collect these items for a craft project later at home.
You can also engage the kids in the navigation process. Show them on a map the landmarks or objects you’ll be searching for during the hike, especially if you’re using an OS Map. To add some playful excitement, you can even pretend that you can’t find a stile or gate that you need to locate. Watch as the kids run off giggling, eager to show you where it is, playfully teasing their “blind” mom! This interactive navigation activity adds a sense of adventure and teamwork to the hike, making it even more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Another exciting option is geocaching, which is like an outdoor treasure hunt. Geocaching involves using a GPS receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers called “geocaches” or “caches.” It’s a fantastic activity for kids aged 4 and above. You can find more information on how to participate in geocaching on the geocaching.com website.
By incorporating games, songs, and interactive activities into your hikes, you’ll create a memorable and enjoyable experience for the whole family. So, get ready to sing, play, explore, and have a wonderful time in the great outdoors!
9. Add some fun crafts to your walk!
Here are some easy outdoor craft activities for kids. You can make them using the items you find along the way. All you need to bring are some card, scissors, string, and double-sided sticky tape. They won’t take up much space in your bag.
- Nature Weaving: Weave together twigs, leaves, and other natural materials to create beautiful designs.
- Clay Face – Outdoor Craft Activity: Use clay to make funny or silly faces on rocks or tree trunks. It’s a creative way to add some character to your surroundings.
- Simple Bug Hotel: Create a cozy habitat for bugs by stacking twigs, leaves, and other natural materials. Bugs will love their new home!
- Sticky Nature Cards: Make unique cards by pressing fallen leaves and flowers onto sticky tape. It’s a great way to preserve and showcase the beauty of nature.
You can try some of these crafts during your walk or save them for when you get home. Just remember to only pick up twigs and leaves that have fallen to the ground. Leave anything living (unless it’s in your own garden) undisturbed. Enjoy your crafty adventure in nature!
10. Let the kids be the leaders of the walk!
Right from the beginning, let them choose which direction to go (but remember to stick to the marked footpaths). If you have two or more kids, taking turns can be a good idea to avoid arguments.
At each junction you come across, it’s the kids’ turn to decide which way to go! They’ll enjoy the feeling of being in charge and it encourages their independence.
Sometimes, you might end up going in circles, but that’s okay! Just go with the flow. However, we don’t want to get lost either. So, make sure you have your OS Map with you and keep track of where you are on the map. It’s important to stay safe and have fun exploring together!
11. Go on a hike with friends for even more fun!
When you have extra kids joining the hike, there are more buddies to play with. However, it can be a bit challenging when kids have different physical abilities. To make it easier, try to meet up with families who have kids around the same age. This way, parents with younger kids won’t feel tempted to carry them all the time just to keep up with everyone.
12. Accept their feelings
It’s important to understand that kids will sometimes have moments where they get upset and don’t want to walk. Even if you have good intentions, there will be days like these. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone!
You can try playing a game with them or bringing out some snacks to see if that helps. But if those strategies don’t work, it’s okay to stop the hike and try again another day.
Remember, don’t give up! I strongly believe that making hiking enjoyable for kids and regularly going on hikes as a family are the keys to having longer and more enjoyable hikes in the future. So keep trying, and you’ll have amazing adventures together!
I hope these tips for hiking with kids are helpful! If you have any other tricks or ideas that you’d like to share, please let me know. Your feedback is valuable to me!
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