This last week we went hiking as part of our Memorial Day activities. We live close to the mountains and there are a lot of canyons and hiking trails to choose from, so we are always finding fun new places to explore. My kids especially love hiking and it is one of mine and my husband’s favorite activities as well so we do a lot of it. With this being the case, I’ve learned a few tips along the way that have helped make hiking a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
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It’s Not A Race
As we were walking along the trail with our kids this last week, they inevitably got side-tracked by different things: climbing on rocks, a flower, a stick. My initial reaction was along the lines of: “C’mon, let’s go!” but then I realized that the point of the hike wasn’t about making it to our destination as much as it was about spending time together doing something we enjoy. So if you go into your hike expecting that it will take longer, you can cut down on frustration at the so-called interruptions that are going to happen.
This one has been a lifesaver for us when we go hiking. I bought each of my kids a small backpack that we pack whenever we go on a hike. Included in their packs is water and a couple of snacks to eat along the way. They love having their own backpacks and I think it also helps them feel big and gives them a little bit more autonomy. Even if your child says they will just carry their water or snacks in their hands or pockets, have them bring the pack because almost without fail they will want you to carry it for them or it will be put down and forgotten. Here are a few good backpack options I found: HERE, HERE and HERE.
Create Teaching Moments
At one point in our hike, we stopped for a little snack break and the thought occurred to me to talk to my kids about littering. I asked my daughter what we should do if we are out somewhere and there isn’t a garbage can for us to put the wrappers or plastic bottles in. She replied that we should put it back in our backpacks and then throw it away later. Then we talked about why that was important (keep trails clean, showing respect, etc). It was a really simple lesson and one of those things that makes a bigger impact when we are actually out in nature rather than trying to explain it at some other time. A few other teaching moments you could incorporate into your hike could be talking about plants and animals in the area, how rivers/streams are made, bring a nature journal and collecting leaves/flowers.
Research the Hike
Anytime we go on a hike, I make sure to find some basic information about it: Does it have bathrooms at the trailhead or along the way? How long is the hike? Difficulty level? Directions or landmarks for finding the trail? Best time of year for hiking? Stroller or wagon friendly? The list goes on and what you want to know will obviously depend on your own family. I recently found a really helpful website called AllTrails.com, where you can search by state and it will come up with a list of hikes and a helpful description of what you’ll find.
Sunscreen, Wipes, Hand Sanitizer
Even if you put sunscreen on before you start the hike, odds are that you’ll need it again at some point before you get back to your car. There are plenty of travel size containers of sunscreen that there really isn’t an excuse not to bring some. Also, nature is dirty and kids seem to gravitate towards dirt so having something to wipe their hands off with is a good idea. Just grab a travel size package of baby wipes and throw them in your bag. And lastly, grab a small bottle of hand sanitizer to disinfect everyone’s hands with before eating or after playing in the water (if your hiking to a waterfall or by a stream).
Flip-Flops/Water Shoes/Extra Socks
I don’t know about you, but after a long hike, all I want to do is take my shoes and socks off and let my feet breathe. A lot of times, we will go out and get some food or stop by a store after our hike and it’s nice to have the extra pair of shoes to change into. Depending on the hike, we will bring water shoes so we can wade around in the water and cool off, plus they protect our feet from sharp rocks and give us traction. Along with this, consider bringing an extra pair of socks. The shoes I use when we go hiking double as water shoes, but I hate wearing them without socks, so I like to bring an extra pair that I can change into before we start back. Same goes for your kids. Throw the flip flops or water shoes or socks into their backpack and let them carry it.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
And last, but not least, bring lots and lots of WATER. This is one of those things that you absolutely do not want to skimp on. Who cares if you have to stop along the trail 10 times so your child can relieve themselves? It’s much better than the alternative. Whether you’re hiking when it’s cloudy and cooler or hot and sunny, you need to keep yourself and your family hydrated and cool. Little kids can overheat pretty easily so stopping and reminding everyone to get a good drink is essential. Throw some ice cubes into everyone’s bottle or cup or even freeze the whole water bottle for a refreshing and cool drink for your entire (or at least most) of your hike.
We brought our kids’ Nuby Thirsty Kids Reflex water canteens with us on our hike and they were perfect. The plastic is made of durable tritan from Eastman and the push top could be pushed down and covered by a plastic latch so it stayed clean. The 12-oz size was perfect for our kids and how much they normally drink. You can find these cups in store at Target and Babies R’ Us. (Shop the water canteens online HERE.
(For my local Utah friends, the hike in these pictures is Battle Creek Falls in Pleasant Grove.)
What tips and tricks have you found helpful when you go hiking with your family?
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