Hiking with Kids: What You Need to Know

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Hiking with Kids: What You Need to Know

Hiking is a great family activity and a wonderful way for little ones to get some exercise and benefit from spending time in nature. But it’s important to be prepared when hiking with kids because longer hikes (even on smooth terrain) aren’t always easy for kids under the age of 5. They can tire out quickly, and might not be able to go as far as their older siblings. 

Even if your kids enjoy being outside, planning ahead is an important part of keeping them not only safe but engaged. When it comes to choosing the right trail consider factors like distance, terrain, elevation, and ease of navigation. You might be an expert hiker, but when you’re bringing little ones along there are other things to think about to make it kid-friendly.

As a parent of a young child, you already know how important it is to be prepared for anything and everything. So what can you do to prepare for a long hike with young kids? It all boils down to three things.

Be Prepared With: Supplies

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe and energized on a long hike is to have the right supplies on hand. You don’t need to carry everything on your back, but you should keep a few essentials in your car. Most hiking trails are far from easily accessible resources, and many don’t offer great cell service. Having supplies in your car will ensure your kids have what they need when you’re far away from civilization. We recommend a first aid kit, a flashlight, blankets, extra water bottles, some non-perishable food, and, of course, a change of clothes.

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Be Prepared With: Snacks

But, when you’re going on a hike – especially far away from home – relying on Goldfish crackers probably isn’t going to cut it. It’s always a good idea to pack extra snacks and water that you can carry with you on the trail. Sometimes your kids might need a second wind and the right snack can help get them there. 

You can never go wrong with granola for the trail. It’s easy to find, easy to pack, and should last you the entire trip. Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit is another good option. It’s a fantastic source of natural sugar and protein that will give your kids a boost, and help them feel full. Even fresh fruit works — no kid can resist the refreshing sweetness of an apple or a few orange slices!

Pssst…check out The Best Things to Do in the Berkshires with Kids

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Be Prepared With: Games

Most kids love being outside and don’t need a lot of extra encouragement to go on a hike. But when you’re walking the same trail for a long time, it can start to feel tedious for young minds. If your kids start to get bored, they’re more likely to tire out or even complain about the distance. 

One way to combat that is to make the hike a bit more interesting for them by turning the experience into a game. You know your kids’ interests better than anyone, so consider what might make things more fun. Here are some ideas:

  • If you have a child who loves collecting things, give them specific flowers to collect along the trail. You can press and preserve them in a scrapbook later as a fun activity that will keep their collection neat and organized. 
  • If your little one is more of an investigator, create a scavenger hunt ahead of time.  It’s a great way for your kids to stay engaged during a long hike, while also being educational.
  • An identification game will keep them entertained while also imparting a bit of sneaky knowledge. Take pictures along the trail of various plants, flowers, animals, or even bugs and identify them together once you get home. 
  • If your kids aren’t quite ready to identify plants you can always play the alphabet game with the names of things you find on the hike. Try to get from A-Z by naming trees, bugs, animals, hiking gear, snacks, anything!
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Outdoor play is crucial to your kids’ development, and sometimes it’s nice to take that beyond the backyard or local park. With a little planning ahead and a willingness to get creative, you can instill lifelong healthy habits and help them understand the beauty of spending time in the great outdoors.

Pssst…check out Why Vitamin D is Important for Kids

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