Please join me in warmly welcoming Autumn from Playing House Full Time! This girl is so much fun- you’ll likely recognize her from Instagram too—where she vulnerably shares her fitness journey and her families healthy PNW lifestyle. Today she’s sharing a few things her family has done to make hiking FUN for their kids. Enjoy! And be sure to tell Autumn “hi”! -AngelaHiking with kids is many, many things. Rewarding, exciting, loud, full of observations, slow, heavy, snack laden, and rife with reassuring. Easy it is not. We’ve found over the years of hiking with our two little ones, that there are a few things we can do to make the trip more enjoyable, overall, for everyone. It can feel like extra work to prepare (for what is likely a short and close by hike) so thoroughly before you even lace up your shoes, but it’s worthy work that pays off in an experience that our entire family can enjoy and look back on positively.
One huge goal my husband and I made for our hiking with kids was to make it as positive for them as humanly possible, as often as possible. Thus ensuring that they will want to hike with us more down the line! I’ve had so many friends with older kids who don’t want to hike and/or explore nature with their families. It remains to be seen if my methods pay off in the long run (my oldest is not quite 7, so still very young!), but I have high hopes that all of these positive and fun experiences had as a little hiker will pay off, and soon I’ll have a big kid who I am struggling to keep up with on tough trails!
- Choose your hike, and drive, wisely. I would often spend my nap time moments reading through trail reviews, and favorite hike round up’s. Choose the perfect hike for my littles’ ability level, that still looked fun and exciting for us, only to find out that it was a 2.5 hour drive… Choosing a hike that is within 1.5 hours (2 or more now that they’re older!) is paramount if it’s going to be a day trip. Unless your child(ren) are little enough that a nap in the car (or two!) is plausible (and, in that case, do a big hike! You’ll be wearing them anyhow!), keep the driving to a minimum. Plan for that drive: coloring books, white board and marker, a fun CD of music, kid podcasts (we LOVE Sparkle Stories, and there are plenty of free ones you can download ahead of time!), and as many ideas for variations on ‘eye spy’ as you can!
- Know when, and best of all where, to stop. On any drive longer than an hour we try to plan at least one fun stop. You can get creative and have that be a game of Red Light, Green Light at a rest stop lawn. Or ask around, research a bit, and find a fun coffee shop or bakery to stop at (we’ve found a few favorites on two of the main drags out to Mt.Baker and the North Cascades that are quickly becoming family traditions to stop in at!). It can make the whole difference, shift everyones’ mood, and really helps to have something to look forward to!
- Once you are there, on the trail, let them lead! Giving the lead to our daughter gives her so much confidence, excitement, and helps her feel more in control of the situation. We follow the kiddos’ pace, and helps them remember to stay on the trail, but let them lead the way. Asking questions like; “what do you see up ahead?” and “what do you notice about this trail?” “what kind of animals do you think we might find?” “what would be the silliest thing we could encounter?” are all ways to get nice trail conversation flowing, really connect and get to know your child in a new setting, and also give them more space to grow in confidence.
- Know what extra’s your specific kiddo’s need, and pack them. Set them up to be as successful as possible! My youngest never wears shoes, just… never. So I always need to pack extra socks, and warm bottom layers for her to change into at least once on the trail and when she gets back to the car. She’s an adventurer! And she cannot be stopped by puddles and mud, and I wouldn’t want her to be. My oldest however is much neater in her trail exploring, but gets hungry the moment we hit the dirt. So making sure that I have an easy, hand held snack for her to imbibe while she leads us on – paramount to the family’s success.
- Keep one sure fire trick in your back pocket. For us it’s been printable’s that are Scavenger Hunts (or, draw one up!). We can hunt for a butterfly, yellow leaf, beetle, mushroom, green moss on a tree branch, puffy cloud, on and on. Giving my girls something really fun, tactile (they LOVE to cross our or draw what they have found) to focus on can be just the break we need to keep going on the hike and really finish it strong and happy. Another idea I’m keeping in my own arsenal is buying a few of the $1 notebooks on sale for back to school and keeping some in the car as “Field Journals”. This is really fun for writing observations, drawings of animals or leaves, leaf rubbings, and just a fun thing to hang onto to write or draw about your experience on the drive home.
Hiking with our kids has brought us so much connection, joy, and a newfound love of where we live (seeing it through their eyes just increases the magic). Using a tip, or two, or all five, has helped me to make those positive memories transition into kid planned “where can we hike this weekend, mama?” trips. Nothing makes my heart soar more than having my girls initiate more adventures.
Happy Hiking!Autumn is a PNW born and raised rain lover. She’s been blogging at Playing House Full Time for eleven years and shares her families adventures, and misadventures in homeschooling, traveling, and growing deeper in love and learning in every season. She’s a reluctant paleo lover, can’t follow a recipe to save her life, and is looking for fun ways to sweat and move her body at every turn. Aspiring yogi, wannabe meat head Mama, and avid couch and netflix enjoyer. You can follow along with Autumn on her instagram page @playinghousewholetime or her personal blog www.playinghousefulltime.com