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Hiking With Kids…Get Out There!

Hiking with Kids...Get out there!

Photo By: Trekaroo/stellarneller

Today, we went on a hike as a family…something that I’ve developed some apprehension about lately. I love hiking, but ever since our kiddos became too heavy to carry and old enough that they really should be walking and getting exercise themselves, I find that a family hike means barely a workout for my legs, but a double workout for my tongue. Usually about 1/4 mile into the hike, our 5-year-old begins to complain about being tired, while our 3-year-old stops every 20-30 feet to check out something. I find that we expend most of our energy vacillating between being cheerleaders, trying to motivate them to keep walking, and being entertainers distracting them from complaining. But, today was different and I think I may have just discovered some good ideas around how to get  kids to hike longer. We still didn’t get a great workout, but at least it was mentally less draining. This is what I learned today about hiking with kids during our fun hike along Rockaway Beach in Pacifica, CA.

Avoid Monotony

Rockaway Beach

Photo by Trekaroo/Liling Pang

I noticed that when we take hikes that offer changes in scenery and terrain, the kids have lots of fun. Hikes with obstacles also provide distractions throughout the journey that keep them from realizing how far and long they have been walking. Coastal hikes are particularly good because the scenery changes often. Today we started off on a paved path, walked through a boggy field with great mud puddles to avoid, over rocks, across the sandy beach, over a small stream, up a steep cliff, and back up a road. It broke up the journey into short intervals.

Bring Snacks That Can Be Eaten While Walking

When boredom starts to set in, offering a snack can keep energy levels up and act as a distraction. Instead of stopping for a picnic, pack foods like nuts, Pirate Booty, apple slices, or grapes. Sometimes I bring along a reusable cup for them to eat out of so that we don’t have to walk side by side reaching into the same bag. There is nothing like having 2-3 scampering hands reaching into your bag to bring that good walking rhythm to a definite halt. Some sanitizing wipes would have been handy on our hike today, but alas, I didn’t think that far.

Playing Make Believe Games

hiking with kids

Photo by Trekaroo/stellarneller

Always a hit for us is going on a treasure hunt or looking for dinosaur bones. (Sticks have an amazing ability to transform into dinosaur bones, pirate swords, or magic wands.) Playing “monster coming to eat you” is also lots of fun because the kids can hide behind trees or bushes as you chase them down the path.

Get Competitive

hiking with kids

Photo by Trekaroo/stellarneller

“Race you to the rock….!”
“Let’s see who can get to the top of the hill first.”

Sometimes when the kids complain that they are tired, I’ve noticed that even though they can’t walk, they surely can run. Sometimes walking just feels too slow and heavy for young feet.  A burst of energy is sometimes all that is need to jump-start that little engine again.

Kids Bring Their Own Gear

My 8-year-old son fancies himself a survivalist, primarily because he’s watched too much Bear Grylls. So when he’s hitting the trails, he carries his own backpack, complete with swiss army knife (kid-friendly version), possible map, canteen, bandanas (because they’re just cool), and most importantly binoculars. My daughter brings her camera and readies herself for “the perfect shot” when it arises.

Take a Break

hiking with kids

Photo by Trekaroo/stellarneller

Taking a break might stop the cardio, but it can also enhance the fun. Find a clearing and practice some yoga moves. Bring journals along and have this be the time where the kids journal about what they have seen and experienced. This doesn’t have to be in written form; some of the best journals are done with water colors or pencil shading. If that’s not enough for you, while the kids take deep breaths, drop and give yourself 20 with boot camp reps of push ups and sit ups. We’re moms, we get to be creative!