I love going outside with my little ones. Any time this mama gets stressed, a sure-fire way to help is to get outside and go for a walk. I prefer to go deep into the woods where it feels like we are in a far off land. The kids seem to share this sentiment. We have our favorite local paths that truly transport us. Some may think that hiking with youngsters is very stressful, but it can actually be the opposite. Check out these tips on how to hike with young kids and make it an enjoyable bonding experience
1. Enjoy the little things
I feel like I am always walking at a fast pace with my eyes upward. I love to soak in the sun and zoom through the forest. This is all fine and great, but my kids have truly taught me how to appreciate nature and enjoy my walks even more. It is so much fun to just. slow. down. My kids find every new thing so intriguing. Mushrooms and other fungi are so incredible if you truly take the time to look a them.
You might find a hidden treasure in a tree trunk that you would’ve missed on your power walk.
There is one time that I remember very clearly that proved how out of touch I was on our walks. We were walking quickly down one of our favorite paths at Hoffmaster State Park, when all of a sudden my four year old started yelling stop! stop! He was pointing at the ground and when I bent down to look, I noticed tons of daddy long legs scurrying down the path. I have always told the kids that daddy long legs are nice because they are daddies (something my dad had told me) and so they are always very careful to not hurt them. I really understood that day, that it is important to let the kids lead the walks so that you can really take in all of the beauty surrounding you.
2. Pack lots of water
I have this horrible habit of packing one water bottle for my family of five. Just this last weekend we went for a four mile hike and I still only brought one stinkin water bottle. Don’t be like me! It was a very large water bottle, but it definitely didn’t last. We had started out this walk with the intention to go for a mile. The kids were doing great and still so full of energy so we decided to continue on. There was a path to the beach that we had been wanting to try for years and we decided to go for it. If I had packed enough water, it would’ve made the trip that much more enjoyable. A small backpack will carry whatever you need and make it so that you can keep all of those water bottles and even a snack if needed. The hotter the day, the more water you need. Don’t slack on this one. It’s a definite must!
3. Take a scenic hike
We are so lucky to live near Lake Michigan. So many of the hikes that we do end at the lake. Even when we go to Ludington State Park, which is an hour away, we are surrounded by water. It is a known fact that kids + water=magic. Just watching the waves crashing on the shore and looking at washed up driftwood, fuels my kids’ excitement.
When we take hikes that don’t lead to the beach, we go on paths with lots of ups and downs and fun trees to look at.
This past summer, we went to Ludington on a Sunday summer afternoon. It was very spur of the moment and felt like a last minute getaway. I actually remembered enough water this time! We were walking pretty high in some dunes and noticed a straight path down to the water.
The kids were itching to go in. We gave the ok and the boys took off running down the dune and straight into the water. It was so spontaneous! Their clothes were soaking wet, but it was soooo worth it! They ran many times into the water.
This state park has many small islands with bridges to island hop and the scenery is gorgeous. There were no grumbles on this hike and it was an easy two miles.
4. Never underestimate the power of a stick
It always cracks me up how much joy the kids find in a stick. Every time we go for a hike, the kids spend a large portion of their time trying to find the right stick. Sometimes the sticks are light sabers, sometimes the sticks are swords and sometimes the sticks are just plain walking sticks.
Occasionally you may even find a sniper rifle to hunt down the enemy at the beach.
This is a nature provided toy so use it to your benefit! If you are hiking while camping, stick hunting is a fun game and is always helpful for a campfire.
5. Know when to call it quits and when to keep going
Flexibility on walks is key! You may have a long hike planned with the kids, but if you get into the woods and they are constantly lagging behind, whining, and not listening, this probably isn’t the best day for that long hike. If you go in with a plan and it isn’t quite achievable, don’t fret! They will probably do the opposite of what you would expect on your next hike as well. We have learned that when it comes to certain hiking destinations, a loose plan is best. We would have missed out on so many amazing paths if we had just stuck to our original plans. Just the other day on our four mile walk, we extended our hike many times. We decided to head to the beach instead of doing the wooded loop. After we reached the beach, we saw some mansions on the lake just a little ways down and decided to walk towards them. We found lots of treasures along the way and really enjoyed our time on the beach. If you stay flexible, there are so many beautiful things to see.
Hiking with kids is truly amazing and inspiring. My kids are always chatty on our walks and their imaginations really bloom in the woods. There is just something about watching your kids discover their world. If you are ever feeling stressed, take the kids and go walk it off!
Where are your favorite places to hike with kids?