Below are 5 top tips to help ensure your kids enjoy their hiking:
- get them involved in the planning of the hike
- keep them focused and interested throughout the hike
- set the walking pace at the kids pace
- ensure everyone wears the right gear
- take drinks and snacks
Below, we’ll now look at each of the 5 tips in a little more detail:
Getting them involved in the planning
‘Creating excitement’ is one of the many advantages of involving your kids in the planning stage of your walk or hike. Unravelling the OS Map and getting your kids involved in the decisions of where to go will not only get them excited about the new adventure but it will also teach them how to read a map!
Once a destination has been chosen, do a bit of research on the internet or using books to find landmarks to look out for. Perhaps copy or print these out and get your kids to identify them whilst out on the walk. (For example, monuments or landmarks in the distance, etc.) This extra research will also help you to assess how rough the terrain will be and help you decide on any additional accessories or equipment you may need to take with you.
It’s also a great idea to get your kids involved in organising your rucksacks, packing them with all the exciting equipment such as binoculars, a camera, or walking sticks. Oh, and don’t forget the notepad and pen to take notes on which landmarks were spotted and which animals were seen (or heard)! A competition perhaps?
One of the main reasons why children don’t enjoy hiking or walking is because they get bored very quickly. Keeping them interested in their surroundings and identifying interesting sights and views will help them to forget how ‘boring’ they think walking is and will encourage them to enjoy the experience!
There are many ways to keep kids interested including getting them to engage using all of their senses. Stop and listen to nature, listen to the sound of the crickets chirping, or the birds singing – or even the hawks screaming! You can also encourage them to have fun identifying which animals make a certain sound. In addition, (where safe to do so, of course) get your kids to use their hands to touch and feel nature. For example, see how slimy the wet rocks are in the stream or how rough the bark is on a very old oak tree.
Whilst safety is paramount, in some areas, you can also encourage them to lean down close to nature and smell wild garlic and other plants or splash around in the mud, perhaps! And, in the summertime, you can get them to try wild blackberries and blueberries. (It goes without saying but please do take care what they eat – only try the berries that you are 100% sure are safe to eat!). But it’s also an opportunity to highlight the dangers of being out in the countryside such as avoiding slippery rocks, or eating wild flowers or fruit and it’s always worthwhile reiterating the importance of following the Countryside Code.
Indeed, playing outdoor games such as ‘eye spy’ can actually be loads of fun and can help to keep them interested – and they really can learn so much from this very simple game!
Or why not try Geocaching? This involves following GPS coordinates to locate a treasure of some type. Simply use a GPS device or a mobile phone with an app to obtain coordinates and set about finding treasure chests hidden in your local area. This outdoor activity is loosely based on the old ‘letter-boxing’ game where clues and landmarks were used to locate treasure. This is a really exciting, challenging and fun game to play – plus its free! Not only that but this truly is an exciting adventure for the whole family to get involved with. For more information on Geocaching check out the Geocaching.com website, where you can set up a free account and even get started today! This game would also work a treat if your kids brought a friend along – more kids equals more fun!
Set the hike at the kids pace
Walking too fast or not stopping to take in the sights and views may discourage your child. They may start to see the hike as a task or a chore, rather than something they can enjoy. Until they get some experience of hiking, it may be worth following these 4 simple points:
- start with shorter trails, as they may get tired very quickly in their first couple of walks
- choose easier routes with perhaps flat dedicated paths
- allow more time than usual for stopping to enjoy nature and get a discussion going.
- choose paths with landmarks that are likely to be appreciated by children (e.g. streams, waterfalls, forests, muddy paths etc)
It’s actually easy to forget that their legs are a lot smaller than yours, and they may need to take 3 or 4 steps to match just one of yours, in order to keep up! Make sure you allocate enough time for stopping to listen out for wildlife, to enjoy the views and to identify various species you might see.
Also, setting goals and ‘milestones’ whilst out walking will keep them occupied and focused. For example, ‘when we next see an Oak tree, we’ll stop for a break’. This will spur them on whilst teaching them about different species of trees at the same time. in addition, getting them to take turns in leading the hike will give them confidence and “power” to spur them on. But also remember to take into account their energy levels, so numerous short breaks with snacks will probably be needed to keep their energy levels up!
Wear the right walking & hiking gear
Spending time choosing the right hiking gear, walking clothing and boots for your kids will save a lot of complaining – and upset – when you’re out and about. As you will be aware, wearing the right footwear is vital for everyone’s safety and enjoyment, especially your kids!
Trying to keep them walking on the dedicated paths can sometimes be difficult, as they enjoy running around trees, through streams and, of course, splashing through puddles. Kids are often oblivious to possible dangers such as badger sets, roots of tree trunks and uneven surfaces. Correct walking footwear can offer some protection whilst keeping their feet comfortable and dry – helping to keep you all outdoors for so much longer!
So, when thinking about buying walking boots for kids, you should ideally think about:
- how ‘flexible’ they are, when worn
- whether they have they been designed with good padding at the ankles, for additional support and comfort
- whether they have soft, deep sole- units, for good traction?
As well as selecting the right walking boots, choosing socks to wear is just as important. It really is important to go for well made, comfortable walking socks that provide cushioning at the ankle and foot-bed. The Grisport Ultra Trek Socks for Juniors offer a soft ‘terry leg’, with a luxury cushioned foot-bed and arch support. These are available in many colours to please both girls and boys alike!
Also, think about equipping your kids with their own day sack so that they can carry their own little treasures!
This final technique, is probably the most important to remember – general snacks, healthy snacks, energy snacks and of course some drinks! As kids run around their natural energy level will deplete, so it’s important to make sure they get a good ‘energy boost’, with healthy snacks such as bananas, nuts, raisins, fruit juices or water. These types of drinks and snacks will slowly release energy over a longer period. Plus these snacks are just great when playing games! (e.g. ‘when we reach the top of this hill, we will stop to have a snack’). You may wish to decide to stay away from chocolate bars, sweets and fizzy drinks, as these snacks can give a ‘sugar rush’ and the ‘energy boost’ will therefore only last for a short period of time.
All in all, a lot of patience and flexibility will be needed by you during the planning stages and then, of course, during the actual walk.
We really hope that you and your kids will enjoy being out and about walking and hiking for many years to come. Hopefully, this simple guide may offer some pointers, at least!