A family hiking trip with younger children can be so much fun, but at times it can be a challenge to keep little ones moving as little legs do get tired.
Before you go trail blazing, here’s a few things to think about and try out to keep the kiddos interested and in good spirits! No one wants to end a family hike in tears (and that includes parents!).
Unless you’re happy to offer piggyback rides or shoulder rides midway along your walk it’s really important to choose a walking distance achievable for your children when starting family hiking outings.
Consider your children’s age and fitness level when choosing your trek. Stick to distances below 3 kilometres to wean them into hiking, then gradually build up to longer walks, all the while keeping note of how your child is faring – can they manage the whole trail with a smile, do they need a lot of breaks, or have they reached their limit too early?
3 kilometres for little legs is quite a distance so try doing a few shorter walks around your neighbourhood to get them used to walking longer distances before setting out on your first adventure.
Energy levels play a big factor in the enjoyment of family hiking trips. Usually everyone starts out super enthusiastic, jumping about and running around. But, soon those energy reserves are used up and all of a sudden, as a parent you’re dealing with ‘my feet hurt’, ‘I can’t move’ and ‘can you carry me?’.
Packing snacks is a good way to keep energy levels up. Fresh fruit is ideal, while other great options include dried fruit, nuts and muesli bars.
Giving little people a small sugar boost can really help them get through those last few kilometres. So have a little stop, refuel and continue on.
You may also want to consider having a special treat waiting in the car as a little ‘yay, you did it!’ reward. Rewards can be a sweet treat, colouring-in book or even just a sticker! Anything your child will see as special.
Make the hike fun! Playing games while you walk is not only entertaining but will also help to distract kids from how far they are walking. The types of games you play will obviously depend on the age and interests of your children. ‘I Spy’ is perfect for older primary aged children, while ‘hop like a bunny’ is ideal for toddlers.
Energetic kids who don’t tire easy may instead fall prey to bouts of boredom. Such children often respond well to friendly competition with parents. When your little Energizer Bunny shows signs of boredom, challenge them to beat you to the top of the next hill or other landmarks.
Using the native flora and fauna to fuel conversation and investigation is the perfect way to ‘burn’ time and is the reason most parents brave hiking with small children in the first place.
Ask children lots of questions: What colour is that flower? Is this plant spikey or smooth? How many bird sounds can you hear? How are these leaves different? Is this the type of forest fairies would live other landmarks? And so on. These types of questions fuel imaginative play and can make the experience not only more enjoyable for everyone but also somewhat educational.
Remember, family hiking trips are about creating long-lasting memories and building stronger relationships with your kids, so have fun, enjoy nature and explore.
And REMEMBER – always carry plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and insect repellent with you when hiking.
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