Okay, so some of you asked about how we hike with kids. Here’s the deal…we live in Oklahoma not a mountain state. We don’t have all the gear you are supposed to have. We don’t have ‘hiking’ shoes or ‘hiking’ clothes. We just like hiking and exploring. Chris and I enjoyed getting ‘lost’ in places before we had kids, so naturally once we had kids we just started bringing them along. As a younger couple I remember people telling us to “enjoy it now because when you have kids you won’t be able to anymore.” Or something along those lines. They were wrong. In some ways we enjoy things even more now that we have kids. When it comes to hiking and camping it is different with kids, but not less fun.
The biggest difference in hiking with kids for us has been letting the kids dictate the hikes. Chris and I would like to do longer, more difficult hikes but there will be a season for that again one day. Right now we are focusing on relishing the time together on an adventure and building a love for hiking in the kids. I am by no means and expert on hiking, just a mom that enjoys it. So this post is my unprofessional (can you be a professional hiker?) advice.
Things to always pack:
- More snacks than you think you will need (in a bag)
- A ziploc bag to hold your snack trash
- Carrier (for the times your toddler gets too tired)
What we wear (since we don’t own true “hiking” gear):
- Layered clothes…shorts and t-shirts
- Tennis shoes or flip flops (flip flops because we are Okies and we think they are a multi-purpose and multi-weather shoe)
- Hats (when we remember)
Now some of my random tips:
Keep it fun: cross through water, go over and under things, change up the terrain to keep things exciting
Change it up when tired: when someone complains of getting tired, we try new things like walking backwards or taking turns being the leader
Embrace the adventure: instead of fleeing to the car to avoid rain or wind, teach them to discover shelters and ways to hide out until summer showers pass. This is us hiding under a few (sturdy) fallen trees from a short rain shower. The kids giggled the whole time and it made for an unforgettable hike.
Go slow and let their imaginations enjoy the playground: these two found the “world’s largest slingshot” and we spent a good 15 minutes in this one spot as they played
Set break destinations: instead of stopping each time someone needs a break, we usually pick a distance up ahead and all aim to make it to that spot for a little break. We take lots of breaks!
Snack Breaks: we don’t snack at every break, but we do snack a lot – way more than if Chris and I were hiking alone.
Be playful – the goal is to enjoy the hike, not just reach a destination: the more fun we make the hike, the more excited the kids are about hiking. The more excited they are, the farther we get to hike. The kids found this hollowed out tree and pretended it was their shelter from a bear (Chris)
Say “yes”: If it doesn’t involve hurting nature or disturbing wildlife…say yes. We teach our kids about leaving no trace and letting wildlife be wild, but we also want their senses to come alive when hiking. We don’t just want it to be a long walk. If they want to stick their head in cold mountain streams or try to jump from rock to rock – we try to say “yes” more than “no”.
Keep the long term goal in mind (if you have one): We have some big trips and big hikes in our future dreams. There are places we want to go with the kids when they get older that will require them being able to carry their own backpacks, with all their gear, for miles. We can’t just wake up with teenagers and expect them to do it if we never put in the ground work. These young years we aren’t focused on long hikes or having all the right gear. We are focusing on sharing our love for nature and the outdoors with our kids. We are soaking up this time, even if the hikes are short…they are good. I’d rather have a short hike with happy kids than a long trek with complaining. And on the short hikes, if the complaining starts…we try to smile and come up with a new way to bring out the laughter.