hiking with kidsHiking with kids is great for their health and happiness. It’s also been shown to help them in the classroom.

Starting new family traditions can be a bonding experience and allow you to get to know your kids’ interests.

If you love the outdoors, you should be excited to pass your love on to your kids. Here are 10 tips on how to start your hike off on the right foot.

1. Make a Map and Make a Plan

The first time you go out hiking with kids, make sure you’ve got a plan laid out. Make a couple of “Plan Bs” and maybe a “Plan C.”

Keep it light and make sure there are plenty of different sights to see.

Find a trail with a stream or a waterfall. See if there’s something that will keep the kids excited and engaged. If they’re into amphibious creatures or insects, send them out on a search for the most interesting things they can find.

Give them waterproof cameras and ask them to take as many pictures as they want of everything they find.

Remember, it’s more about the journey than the destination, so if your kids want to get down on the ground to explore what’s around them, encourage them.

Follow their lead, as they will be pretty clear about what they find interesting.

2. Be Generous with Your Time

You know that things can take a little bit longer when kids are involved, so give yourself a generous amount of time. Your kids will explore and want to get their hands on everything, whether or not you planned for that.

Let them enjoy their time and when it seems like they’re getting fatigued, move on to the next part of the hike. You may not end up hitting all of the places you intended, but there’s always next time.

Getting kids excited about hiking is your biggest hurdle. If your kids spend half the day exploring the first mile of the trail, consider this a success. It will be your first of many trips to the great outdoors.

3. Pack the Essentials

Anytime you go hiking with kids, you should pack a first aid kit, sunscreen, bug spray and all the essentials. Having kids, you know to always prepare for any possible situation.

Bring safety whistles and tell kids how and when they should use them. Tell them they should use them when they feel unsafe or if they spot any big animals.

Binoculars, field guides, and a camera are great tools to help them explore.

Wet wipes, tissues, bandages, and ointment will make sure you’re covered for any small scrapes and cuts.

4. Clothes Make the Climber

Bring lots of layers. Look at the weather beforehand and make sure you’re prepared for sudden wet or cold conditions. Bring an extra little jacket for your kids and some light ponchos just in case conditions change.

Hats and extra pairs of gloves will cover you whether it’s really sunny or starts to rain. Gloves can be good for kids who end up digging through the brush.

Good hiking shoes should be weather-ready with good traction. Summer mornings are cooler than you think, so bring some good socks.

5. Make Time for Breaks

Energy levels can go up and down when you’re hiking with kids. When they’re tired, they can end up becoming cranky and not want to go on. When you make your plan, plan for breaks.

By planning for breaks at certain landmarks, you can keep your kids motivated. When energy dips, you can say, “We’ll have a snack at the bridge up there!”

After a good snack and a minute of sitting down, you’ll find they often get a second wind, and are ready to take on another section of the trail. Always bring extra water to stay hydrated.

6. Delegate Leadership

Let your kids feel like they’re in charge. Give them a copy of your map and tell them to lead the way. Rotate between your kids and have them take turns.

As a backup, you can keep a waterproof GPS device hidden in your pocket to make sure they don’t lead you down the wrong path.

It’s important for kids to feel empowered. It builds confidence and lets them feel more connected to the journey.

Allowing kids to lead can also make sure the pace is suited to them.

7. Make Room for Games

To keep it fun and light, come up with games. Have them on the lookout for birds, prints, or even scat on the trail.

Depending on where you go, they can name plants and trees. Find a relevant field guide and see how many things they can find from the book.

You can even play a little eye-spy game and have them find things with interesting textures, smells, or colors.

8. Stay Positive

Keep a positive attitude no matter what. If you’re a parent, you know the power of rewards. Bring this concept to the hike.

Tell your kids how well they’re doing during the hike and how great they are at finding interesting things. Kids want to hear that they’re doing something well and that can be really important if it’s your first time hiking.

You’ll need reinforcement too, so let me be the first to say: “You’re doing a great job!”

9. Respect The Environment

Make sure that your kids understand our place in the ecosystem when they take the trail. Bring an extra plastic bag to keep your trash in. Tell them the importance of leaving our great wilderness the way we find it.

Bring an extra bag and some garden gloves and you can have kids pick up trash they find along the trail.

Kids might enjoy digging small holes or catching toads. Be sure they know they should cover their holes back up and return anything they pick up. It’s important to also tell them why this is important so that they build a good relationship with the earth.

10. Plan on Hiking With Kids as Often as Possible

Make your first family hike the beginning of a tradition of going out monthly. Building their sense of adventure will help them in school and in life.

They’ll begin to see things around your neighborhood or near their school. Kids who get out and see the outdoors with friends can teach them about their town and about the environment in general.

If you’re the type who worries about getting lost, look at our buying guide for GPS devices so you can get outdoors worry-free!