Saturday, March 23, 2013

14 Recommendations for a Perfect Hike with Kids

Last week we had a wonderful hike with friends. We love going on hikes, and this one was particularly fun. How can you turn a regular hike into a super hike? Here are 14 recommendations.

1. Invite friends. Friends make a hike much more fun, because you can share the experience. For kids, friends can be a wonderful distraction. Invite an adult friend, too--it's a chance to catch up on adult talk, plus the extra help can be great. Also, ever notice how sometimes your kids ignore you but will listen to another adult?
Friends make a hike even better.
2. Make it an adventure. Try a new spot or go to one that's familiar but with a twist--in the rain, at night, in a different season.  We went to a gully not far from our house, and not far from the road. The thing that made it special was that we hadn't explored much of it and there aren't any trails in it (except animal trails).
Making a regular hike a super hike--it's mostly how you think about it.
A super hike isn't just walking--it's an adventure!

3. Don't have a destination. I didn't think we would get far on our gully hike. But that didn't matter. Being outside was more important than getting somewhere. In other words, the journey took precedence over the destination. We told the kids they would get to decide where we went (you can imagine how they loved that!) For our hike, we actually made it over a mile. But it took four hours!
Our hike didn't have a destination; instead, our goal was
to meander through the gullies and see what cool things we could find.

4. Pack plenty of food. Better yet, have the kids pack the food. Anyone who's hiked with kids know how important snacks are. My kids love to help choose the food we'll bring on a hike. For this particular day, we decided on a picnic lunch, with hot dogs, chips, oranges, fruit leather, and water. The kids realized that hot dogs meant that we would have to make a fire, so they looked forward to that with great anticipation. Our friends brought some delicious hummus, Melba toast, and strawberries. Kids (and let's face it, adults, too), often gravitate to something different, so it's fun to have two sets of food to choose from!
A hot dog tastes extra good when you get to prepare it yourself, including making the fire.
Friends' snacks are also a favorite.

5. Have the kids carry their own backpacks. Ever since they were little (really little), I've had the kids carry small backpacks. They usually carry their own water bottle and a snack or two of their choosing, along with a small first aid kit. Desert Girl's first aid kit consisted of a single bandaid in a ziploc bag. Desert Boy's had about four bandaids, and he also took a notebook and pen so he could write about the trip. The kids like being able to get to their own food and water, and teaching them young to carry a pack will make it even easier when they get older. If they get tired on the hike, I take the backpack from them, and they suddenly have more energy (but don't do this too early in a hike or you'll get worn out!). Also, be sure to inspect your kids' backpacks before you start. Desert Girl had several extra toys that added weight but wouldn't be useful at all.
Desert Girl getting a bandaid out of her backpack for Charlie.
She was so proud that she was prepared. 

6. Find a challenge. Or two or three. Do we remember the easy times in life? Not so much. Usually our strongest memories are the difficult times--the challenges and choices we faced. If the entire hike is easy, we'll probably forget it. But if there was something hard that made us dig deep into ourselves and find some inner strength, we're much more likely to remember the hike and our feelings of overcoming something difficult. (Just make sure the challenge isn't too difficult or dangerous!)
Desert Girl finds she can get down this steep slope by sitting down and pretending its a slide.  (Boots on the wrong feet may or may not help.) The boys scramble up a steep slope, not sure if they can make it up.

Desert Girl squeezes through a tight spot.

7. Be in awe of what you find. Take time to really observe what's around. Sometimes that's no problem--kids can stare at ants walking for hours. Other times, they're rushing, so you might have to slow them down. Asking questions about what they're seeing can sometimes help them pause and consider what's around them.
How long are the roots of a desert plant? Why are they so long? The boys checking out a little cave.
Where did all the dirt fall from? Why? 

8. Try out a new gadget. Short hikes can be a great place to introduce your little ones to things they might need on longer hikes. We brought a compass and explained how to find north. Then we also tried the watch method of finding north and the shadow stick method. They all matched perfectly (to my great surprise!). Other great things that you could introduce them to are water filters, first aid techniques (and more advanced supplies than bandaids), and maps. Although the kids probably won't learn everything they need to know in the short lesson, it will be a good introduction.
Charlie trying out a compass.
You can introduce your little hiker to gear you plan to use on future, longer hikes.

9. Dress like a champion. You'll have to supervise what your kids put on, and maybe make some suggestions. Desert Boy thought it was really cool when I told him he should wear his wicking shirt, because he knew we were going for a real adventure then. Desert Girl insisted on a skirt. I was okay with it, as long as it was over pants. That turned out to be important, as the skirt soon caught on every bush and we had to take it off. Still, just knowing she had it in her backpack for later use kept her happy. Also make sure you have enough layers for the kids. Getting cold can make a hike miserable for everyone. Hats can be a great way to limit sun exposure.
Hiking in style.
We always have layers to take off or add as the temperature changes.

10. Give the kids a little space. Kids need some alone time on a hike just to be kids. I usually tell my kids that they can walk ahead as long as they can see me. In our area, mountain lions are the biggest predators, so I don't want the kids too far away. Depending on where you live, you can decide what the right distance is to let them have a little space. Alternatively, you can let them have a little alone time during a break, where they stay put and you can observe them from a discreet distance.
Desert Girl shares a secret with Charlie.
I couldn't hear what she said, but I could see that they were just fine.

11. Walk like a dinosaur. Desert Girl started roaring and had her arms stretched out in front of her during her hike. She had turned into a dinosaur, and was eagerly trying to "eat" the boys. Desert Boy used to turn into a train and "chop-choo" his way down the trail. We got some odd stares when he imitated loud train whistles. When your kids start to get a little tired, encourage them to use their imaginations to become their favorite animals or machines, and they may be able to hike a little further without complaining.
Desert Girl pretending to be a dinosaur and chasing after the boys.
Have your kids use their imaginations as they hike, and they'll hike longer.

12. Get dirty. Kids will immediately forget how tired they are if they can splash in a mud puddle!
Charlie found a mud puddle and somehow managed to step right in the middle of it!

13. Improvise. At the end of the hike, we went fishing with kite string and a paperclip. The kids thought it was brilliant. And it's what they remember best! You might be able to improvise sledding with a paper bag, a raft with old logs, a hiking stick out of a branch, and more.
Desert Girl fishing with kite string and a paper clip. The kids wanted to go swimming, so we said go ahead! It only took them a few steps in the cold water before they realized that maybe they should wait a couple months.

14. Take photos. I like to remember our times together, so I usually have my camera on hikes. I also find that photography helps me relax and go at a slower pace. I'm not as focused on getting somewhere, instead I'm trying to find good camera angles and interesting things to photograph.
A happy crew at the end of a fun hike.

 Hope this helps you have your own perfect hike!
 Do you have any other tips for hiking with kids? If you do, please share in the comments.

Thanks for visiting.


jhami said...

Looks like we missed out on a fun adventure! My kids always hike better with friends!!

Desert Survivor said...

We missed you! We will have to go sometime--there are so many side gullies to explore, and they are really cool.

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