Hiking always sounds like a good idea at the time – exercise, fresh air and quality time together, right? But then you actually get out into the wilderness, and you find yourself in survival mode. One kid is endlessly thirsty (but you know they just sucked down whole bottle of water) and the other kid has to pee 10 times on the trail (that one had TWO bottles of water).
So what’s the secret to a peaceful walk in the woods? Here’s how to have a little more fun on your next hike:
Pack lots of snacks! Kids get hungry a lot. We don’t have to tell you that. Don’t get caught in the woods with no food and a pack of ravenous kiddos. But that doesn’t have to mean boring old granola you’re sure to find stuck in your car seats later anyway.
Think fruit! Fresh cut watermelon is refreshing and hydrating. Dried fruit, like apples or mangos, is also a great portable option. Spread that with a bit of almond or peanut butter, and dried fruit makes a great new trail snack.
Small Trails, Big Experiences
Be realistic about the length of trail your kids can handle without getting too fatigued. A shorter trail doesn’t have to mean a shorter trip. A short trail will have all the exploration opportunities you need if you stop and smell the forest flowers. And that way, when everyone’s clearly DONE, you’re not stranded with a mile left to go.
Put the Phone Away!
When you or the kids see something interesting, take the time to stop, notice, and live in the present moment. When you get to a beautiful overlook, stop and gaze out. Let your mind wander and enjoy a magnificent view. After you’ve taken it all in, then you can take the group picture. Otherwise, leave the smartphones in a protective case in your backpack.
Playtime and Silence
Make it fun for little ones. You can include a scavenger hunt by creating a list of items you plan to find on the way up or hone kids’ observation skills with a game of I Spy.
You don’t always have to look for ways to engage out loud when hiking, though. Sometimes the silence invites the kids to open up with deep thoughts, insights or even silly jokes.
The Right Attitude (Including You, Mom!)
About half way through, there will most likely be a complainer in the bunch. And understandably, it could be you! Take three slow, deep breaths. Try to think back to the last yoga class you squeezed into your schedule (no matter how many years ago it was) and channel that calm, positive attitude. Poof! Like magic, your kids will likely follow suit. Soon you’ll feel how getting your nature fix can really up those happy hormones. Maybe that’s why hiking is linked to a lower risk of depression.
Remember, it’s not a race. Older kids may run ahead, and younger kids might be a little slower than more experienced (and taller!) adults. Just make sure everyone remains within eyesight. Don’t worry about the speed at which you’re going as much as making sure everyone is having fun.
Spark their wonder by asking things like, “Who can spot a hawk first?” or “What animal do you think lives in that hole?” From spotting beautiful rocks, trees and animal life, to climbing trees, to noticing the temperature differences, kids observe and process much more than we may realize. Now is your chance to see how amazing their minds really are.
On the car ride home, ask your kids what they liked most most about the hike, and you may be really surprised, and proud, of their answers.