Time together as a family while breathing fresh air and exercising your mind, body, and spirit — all of it can be achieved with a family day hike. It is a fantastic way to experience nature, connect as a group and, with a wee bit of planning, it can turn into a favorite way to get off the couch!
THE MANY BENEFITS OF DAY HIKING FOR YOUR FAMILY
I talked about some of the many health benefits of spending time in the great outdoors here and hiking the trails is a great way to do just that. But, here are just a few more reasons why you should plan a day hike very, very soon:
1. Time together allows for deeper connection.
The conversations that can formulate while moving and experiencing the outdoors can’t be beat! Everyone plays together with no electronic gadgets to distract or consume our attention.
2. It is free – or nearly almost!
Some nature parks do have entrance fees but there are many trails (some even very near your home, I bet) that won’t take a lot of gas to get to or have any fees at all! And, with the exception of snacks you may need to pack, this is a budget-friendly idea to do something fun with your family.
3. You set a great example.
Your children see you active and curious about life outdoors and then they will perhaps emulate that in their lives as well and to that of their own families one day. Pass that healthy lifestyle forward!
4. Everyone’s mood soars!
Exercise and fresh air is always a mood elevator and science backs that up! In addition, it is nice to get away from your cell phones, work, the house (as there is always work to be done there, right?), homework and other responsibilities.
5. Everyone learns.
You observe nature together, you learn about your area a bit more, you discover new characteristics about each other, and you may learn to work a compass, read a map, or practice your photography.
9 BEST SECRETS FOR HIKING WITH CHILDREN
I have wonderful memories of day hikes with my family that we have taken over the years both near our home as well as on many vacations. I bet you can create great memories, too, if you follow these easy tips for a fun and hassle-free day on the trails with your family:
1. Hit the trails early.
If you have younger children in your group, they usually wake up early so take advantage of that and hit the trail and beat the crowds. You’ll enjoy cooler weather and better odds of spotting wildlife, too.
Don’t miss this: Here are lots of ideas for morning routines to make the day start on the right foot.
2. Go easy.
For at least the first few times, select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous. Keep it a positive experience, not a marathon that they will never want to repeat.
Don’t miss this: Ticks are a reality any time you and your family are outdoors. Here are great tips on how to prevent ticks, remove them and avoid the disease they carry.
3. Be a player.
Sing songs when the trail gets a bit boring or it is taking longer than expected. Games like “I Spy” or “Who can be the Quietest?” can really distract from a less than engaging patch of trail.
Once while hiking in the Grand Tetons on this trail with our children years ago, we got delayed coming back down a mountain and there was no way back to our car without hiking through “bear country during feeding hours.” (According to the signs!) Because we did not want to be on the dinner menu, we had our children clap rocks with their hands to create a beat while singing and talking loudly to keep the bears away and to distract ourselves from the stress we were feeling. And, we moved quickly . . . very, very quickly!
4. Pack really useful (and fun!) things.
Don’t burden your back with a lot of weight but these items could come in very handy in your pack and they don’t weigh much. I have linked to a few of my favorite inexpensive items that make the difference and find to be of great value.
- lots of individual wipes to clean up muddy hands
- band aids, first aid wipes
- important medications like inhalers, EpiPens, etc.
- lightweight binoculars
- extra pair of socks
- a few lightweight flashlights
- plenty of water for each person
- a few plastic bags for trash or wet items
- filling snacks like this one for each person
- plastic magnifying glass – Plastic is safer and is really fun for the kids to get a closer look at plants, bugs, leaves, etc.
- camera or the one on your cellphone
- whistle for each person (see tip number 5)
Don’t miss this: Do you have these extras in your first aid kit at home and in the car?
5. Safety first.
Tell someone at home where you are going in case of an accident and they know where to find you. Read the trail map thoroughly before starting the hike. Speak with the rangers, too, for any tips or changes to trails not updated on the maps. Give the children each a whistle in case they get separated.
Don’t miss this: Do you have your emergency information listed for a first responder to help you best?
6. Be best dressed.
The right shoes and socks are the most important. You may not think socks are critical, but ones that slide down or are too thin can cause blisters and absolutely ruin the day. These socks are great for kids and hiking and I really love these socks for hiking for women, too.
Sturdy, covered shoes can prevent a turned ankle or two. Light layers work best to peel off or add to when the weather turns. Keep a change of clothes in the car in case a lot of muddy splashing occurs and they can ride home in clean attire.
The trail is a giant classroom in nature! Take advantage as hiking along a trail is a great time to show your children how to read a map; look for trail markings, wildflowers and animal behavior; and even how to push along even when tired.
8. Make it like you were never there.
Teach your children to take care of our great parks and trails. Show them to clean up all trash and leave the space exactly as it was found. There is a lot more information on that here.
9. Plan the next adventure.
On the way home, ask your kids what they enjoyed and what they didn’t and where they would like to go next time. Perhaps even let them plan the next day hike or two. If you are lucky, you may even get to plan one here or here.
Once home, let the kids start a collage at home with feathers or pressed flowers they collected on the trip, photos, trail maps, etc. that you can add to for further family adventures outdoors!
So, tell me, how do you like to spend time outdoors with your family or solo? Any tips on how to make it a great success? Please add in the comments so that all the readers can learn!