Hiking with kids is a great way to get off of the beaten path and show the children what nature is really like.
Going to a park or simply playing outdoors just doesn’t have the same effect on me as getting out and away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
That’s why we make it a point to go hiking with kids when we are on on the road. It doesn’t matter where we are we can always find a trail to go hiking on and for us we don’t just have to be in the mountains to get a good hike in.
But hiking with kids comes with a few challenges. With kids, you have to be prepared.
Are you wondering what to bring when you go hiking with kids?
Well naturally if you bring the kids you will need to bring a few things you wouldn’t normally bring on a family outing and hiking with toddlers is different than with big kids.
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Tips for Hiking with Toddlers
When toddlers are involved in anything you know it’s going to take a little longer than usual. So I plan for the inevitable.
Here are 5 tips for hiking with these little ones in tow.
- Take snacks if you know you will be out for a while. We don’t usually take snacks if it’s just a mile or two but if we plan to be out for a while we will pack snacks in our CamelBak.
- Bring bribes. It never fails that about halfway through someone gets worn out prematurely from all of the running that they do. You know what I’m talking about. I don’t know how these little people run so much. Needless to say, bring bribes. I usually bring chocolate or if its hot out I’ll bring suckers. This helps to get their minds off of the hiking they are doing and on their little treat for a bit.
- Be prepared to stop and pee. I always make my kids go to the bathroom before we leave the RV but it never seems to stop their need to pee once we arrive. I don’t want to pack an entire roll of toilet paper but I do pack Kleenex or roll a bunch of TP off to get us through.
- Bring sun protection in the form of a hat and sunscreen. We have a little redhead and her skin is so sensitive so we always pack this stuff.
- Bring a fidget. I like to bring something for her to fidget with for a short while, at least until she’s sick of it. I keep this back until we are at defcon 5. When it comes to toddlers you have to be prepared because their little personalities can give you whiplash.
Now on to the rest of our tips for hiking with children.
What to Wear When Hiking with Kids
Hiking Boots or Athletic Shoes?
We haven’t invested in hiking boots for the kids just yet because they are on the pricey side and their feet grow rapidly, but a nice pair of athletic shoes will do the trick.
Plan for your area. Check the weather prior to heading out and dress the kids accordingly.
For the big kid we let her make her own choices (usually), but for the toddler, we usually dress her in pants just in case.
I like to be prepared for a rain shower or wind to kick up especially if we are in the mountains so I usually bring little jackets for the girls. When we get to where we are hiking we make a decision on whether to leave them in the car or bring them along.
This falls under our tips for hiking with toddlers section but we usually do pack hats. Nate & I wear hats so we usually always have them for the kiddos too.
Our family seems to be a magnet for mosquitos and small bug bites so we always pack in bug repellant. In fact, I use this sunscreen that has bug repellent in it that is safer for kids.
We have several camelbaks that my husband has been issued through the military so we have those on hand but I’ve also been seeing these cute little kids camelbaks on the trails these days. This would be a great option if you have a bigger kid.
Make Hiking Fun
For adults hiking is about the experience, getting out in nature, seeing the beautiful views. However, hiking with kids is different and a lot of times they don’t see it the same way.
So we usually make it fun by playing games.
Find That Rock
My kids favorite thing to do by far when we are family hiking is to pick up interesting rocks. Our daughter has this awesome book about rocks that she got from the book fair a while back. She loves to pick up rocks and figure out what they are.
Our toddler just likes to find the pretty rocks which is also fun to do.
Spot That Butterfly
We have this field guide for kids that I picked up last summer. When we go out she usually brings it with her and we try to find things in it. But this year she got a butterfly guide for her birthday along with a pair of binoculars.
So naturally, we are finding all sorts of butterflies and moths.
Name That Animal Track
If we are really lucky we will find random animal tracks and we have the girls try to name them. This is really fun for them because the tracks are naturally imprinted in the mud and the kids like to guess how long it’s been there.
They also might like to scout out Big Foot tracks.
My husband hates this game so the kids usually play it together. They enjoy themselves which is perfectly fine with me.
Allowing them to Explore
We like to allow them to explore a little along the way. If we find a creek or stream while we are hiking we will take a break and let the kids get their feet wet. They love to take their shoes off and let their toes sink into the sandy bottom.
They also take this time to throw big rocks in to see if they can splash each other.
It’s quite funny to watch the toddler trying to pick up heavy rocks.
Occasionally that means climbing scary-ish rocks and letting them sit in on the rock wash to see if their butts get wet.
Have an End Goal
When you’re hiking with kids you have to have an end goal. They will ask you constantly, “are we there yet” if they aren’t enjoying themselves. So having an end goal in mind is key. We like to find trails that allow us to make loops or get up to a beautiful mountain view.
Make sure you know ahead of time where your endpoint will be.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
I think this goes without saying but have fun on your hike. The more you are enjoying yourself the more the kids will too. Going hiking with kids can be so much fun you just have to be prepared to make that happen.