Hiking with children can be an excellent and inexpensive way to spend uninterrupted time together as a family. With just you and your family in the great outdoors, you can enjoy the wilderness and each others company—so long as everyone is happy. Which begs the question, how do you motivate children to hike?
Some children find hiking to be an arduous and forced activity. However fostering your children’s connection with the great outdoors at a young age can help encourage children to hit the trails for years to come. Here are six more tips to motivate your children to take a hike a family hike.
Get your children excited to come along on your next hike by involving them in the trip and route planning. Bring out the trail map or hiking book at the kitchen table and show your kids some options on where to go. Let them have a say in where they would like to explore while providing input. However, you should set the standard that you will take turns determining which hike to conquer next so they don’t get accustomed to always being able to choose.
When choosing between multiple hikes, pick the one that will be the most fun. For kids, this generally means a shorter hike. Long, loop hikes can be tricky for kids. If they decide they aren’t interested in hiking halfway through the trail, you could end up carrying them and all their belongings much farther than you want to. Waterfall hikes and hikes with lookout points are also popular options for kids.
Be prepared when you hike with children as they have different needs than adults. In addition to the normal items you would bring along on a hike, there are additional pieces of gear that may be helpful to include in your packing list. These additional items include:
- Baby wipes (even for older kids)
- Light jacket
- Plastic grocery bag for garbage and dirty clothes
- Facial tissue
- Whistle (for kids over the age of 4)
Kids are highly motivated by snacks. While most of the time you probably prefer for your kids to eat healthy, saving a treat to be enjoyed at your hike’s endpoint could be a good way to not only motivate but reward your children for accompanying you. Have certain foods that you only have on hikes to keep them special.
Play games to keep your kids entertained as you walk. This can especially come in handy as your kids begin to grow tired or complain. Distract them by making them smile. A few games you could play on the trails are:
- I Spy
- Guessing game (What animal has black and orange strips and looks like a big cat?)
- Counting games (Let’s see how many bugs we can find on this trail)
- Bird or animal imitations
- Stories — Ask your kids what they want to hear a story about. Once they respond, find ways to incorporate your hike into the story. This can get them more excited about the hike and eager to keep going.
Invite another family along on your backpacking or hiking journey that has kids similar ages. This can make a huge difference in the outlook of your own kids and provide a simple, free distraction when you hit tough terrain. Even if you run into a family you don’t know on the trail, think about striking a conversation with them if you’re headed in the same direction. The conversation can increase your kid’s endurance and boost their confidence seeing people their same age completing the same hike.
Geocaching is a fun, interactive way to enhance any hiking experience. It offers you a family-friendly way to teach your children about the wonders of the great outdoors while using technology to locate a hidden treasure. When you realize you are getting close to the treasure, ensure your children are the ones to find it. Not only will they be more excited by discovering a hidden treasure, this treasure can also double as a reward. Start by looking up caches on trails in your area.
Additional Tips To Motivate Children To Hike:
- Start hiking with your children as young as you can.
- Go often: Set the norm that its part of your everyday life to explore and get outdoors.
- Pick shorter hikes: This applies to both the distance of the hike and the time it takes to get there.
- Be flexible: Kids can change their minds 10 times in 10 minutes. Be willing to work with their needs and expect to not complete the entire trail.
- Keep your kids involved in the hike: Let them pick the hike, give them chores to do before the hike, and keep them engaged during the hike.
- Pick hikes with interesting landmarks such as creeks, lakes, waterfalls, and large outcroppings.