7 Tips for a Successful Family Hikehiking as a family can be such a fun experience that gives your kids lifelong memories, but it’s important to be prepared. If this is your first (or 10th) hiking trip as a family, these family hiking tips should help you have an enjoyable experience.
1. Start small.
In your excitement to start hiking with your kids, don’t be overly ambitious when planning your first one. Start with some short, easy trails and work your way up. These family-friendly hikes around Maine are a good place to start looking for trails that will be ideal for your family.
2. Let your kids carry their own special pack.
Whether it’s a kid-sized backpack or hydration pack, this is a great way for kids to feel like they’ve got something special for the hike. They can pack it with a few small things like kid binoculars, a mini notebook and pencil, a small carabiner with the Leave No Trace kids’ card, and trail mix. Of course you’ll have to exercise caution and know your kids. I have a little family member who has always loved bringing along her backpack–filled with books, notebooks, and rocks (seriously). Inevitably she gets tired of carrying it and wants her parents to take over. They know this before setting out and lay down some ground rules.
3. Go on a hiking scavenger hunt.
Give your kids a list of things to watch for. For example, they could look out for deer tracks, moose tracks, specific types of flowers or trees, a hiker in a bandana, a dog, a stream, and specific types of birds. This list could be something they keep in their backpack. This can help keep their mind occupied and off the feeling of being tired!
4. Bring plenty of snacks!
I’m sure this goes without saying for the parents out there…but for all the uncles, aunts, or otherwise uninitiated, pack lots of snacks. You’re going to want them, too.
5. Give everyone an allowance of “rests.”
In our family, there were four of us, and on long hikes we each were allowed 3 rests to call throughout the hike. When one of us was tired, we would say, “I call a rest” and we could all stop to sit and have some snacks and water. It seemed to work to keep whining to a minimum.
6. Talk about all the things you notice in the woods.
Kids are naturally curious, so use that to keep them occupied instead of focused on how tired they are. With younger kids, of course you’ll need to keep it really basic. But with older kids, get them curious by asking them questions about what they’re seeing and sharing random facts with them. When you’re curious and interested in something in nature, that excitement spreads. I still remember many of the things my dad taught me on hikes–like how birch trees make some of the best firewood and how you can tell if you’re on the right trail by the color of the blazes.
7. Don’t let one bad experience ruin family hiking trips for you.
Trust me, my family had our share of not-very-fun hikes (think hiking in the rain, whining about granola bars, and trails we couldn’t find). But the more you get out there with your kids, the more this will be something they look forward to and love doing as a family.
What family hiking tips would you add to this list?