Fall is here and with it comes the crisp days and stunning changes in the landscape that make it an ideal time for hiking and getting outdoors with your family. Fall, also known as “leaf peeping season,” practically begs us to lace up our sneakers and head to the hills. And as we know, there are innumerable benefits of hiking to share with our children. First, there is the importance of exercise. Some research shows that just 5 minutes of walking in nature improves mood, self-esteem, and a sense of calm. Hiking through uneven and diverse terrain increases balance and coordination and as kids jump from rock to rock or meander around fallen trees, they develop agility and gross motor skills. There is the undisputed benefit of unplugging from technology for children and adults. And perhaps best of all, it creates a love for the world around us and fosters stewardship for the natural world.
But despite all of these benefits, getting your kids excited about a long walk uphill can at times be a challenge. Sometimes just walking around outside isn’t quite enough to keep everyone engaged and happy. There might be whining. Even tears. So how do you prepare to get your kids ready for a hike and turn them into happy campers as they put one foot in front of the other? We’ve compiled some tips to get your kids on the trail with smiles and a willing spirit.
Be Prepared! Follow the Boy Scout and Girl Scout’s Credo
Ensuring a successful hike does require a little bit of work and planning on the grown up side. But no matter how much preparation, hiking with kids is definitely worth it. Make sure before you head out, you have plenty of water, snacks with high nutritional value and protein like trail mix, a first aid kit, plenty of extra layers, sunscreen, and appropriate footwear. Having a map of the area in case you don’t have cell service is also a good idea. And when heading into the wilderness, it never hurts to throw our Terra Kid’s 4 Way Flashlight in the backpack to light up any dark spots.
Bring a Friend to Make the Miles Fly By
Nothing makes things more fun than having a friend to share the adventure with. Encourage your child to bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to accompany them on the journey. Having this special pal will allow them to narrate the hike and point out all the cool things they are sharing. Our brand new doll Soley is the perfect pal to bring as she is all dressed up for adventure with her snazzy hiking boots, cozy fleece, and bright red scarf. Placing Soley (or any small friend) in our Summer Meadow Doll Carrier is will give them have a bird’s eye view while being safely snuggled on your child’s chest.
Notice, Observe, Listen
Nature makes a great training ground for observation and listening skills. The chorus of birds, the different textures of moss and bark, the gurgling of running water, the variation of leaf colors, and the sound of wind through the trees. Listening and observing allows your child to pay attention to the wonder all around them. Bring along one of our magnifying glasses or field microscopes to get up close and personal to the treasures your child discovers. Seeing the world through your children’s eyes will remind you of how fascinating bugs are, how graceful birds are, and how fun it is to get a little muddy! Use each water break and rest time to pay attention to all the sights and sounds around you as you go and before you know it, you will be back at the car!
Create a Hiking Notebook
And as you notice the sights and sounds of the hike, have your children draw or write notes about the things they see along the way in a journal. This record taking can take place in all kinds of ways from lists, descriptions, or even to stories of imagined scenarios. If everyone contributes to this nature hike journal it can become a treasured family album as the kids grow up. Another tip for keeping your kids engaged throughout the hike is to have them take pictures of things that interest them as they go. Not only will this keep them noticing the awe of what is around them, but you will have great pictures to help remember your family hikes.
Use Nature’s Classroom to Teach Life Skills
Being in the woods allows you to share all kinds of life skills with your children from noticing which direction the sun is rising to being aware of trail markers and blazes. You can show kids how to read an actual paper map (they still exist!), predict a storm by noticing the changes in the clouds, or use a compass to determine your course. Even a scraped knee, bug bite, or blister can be an opportunity to teach basic first aid.Bringing your kids on hikes encourages them to have a life-long connection to nature. Because a love for the great outdoors is not something we automatically inherent, time in nature fosters and develops this appreciation. Going for hikes with children is a simple way to show the next generation the wonders of the great outdoors and why we need to protect nature.