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Important Tips on Hiking with Kids that Every Parent Should Know

The fact that you have children doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy your hikes. You can go with the kids. In fact, hiking with your children will serve as a fun and healthy way to bond with the family and teach your kids how to explore and appreciate Mother Nature.
But hiking with children is often different than hiking with just adults. You won’t be able to focus, for example, on “getting there” the soonest or reaching the farthest point on the map possible.
Here are some tips to remember:

1. Bring lots of snacks.
Like it or not, you will definitely be taking a lot of breaks. Little boys and girls are curious about every little thing they see and they will often stop to explore their surroundings. So make sure you have snacks for when you aren’t actually hiking.
So what’s a good outdoor snack choice? Consider apple slices and peanut butter on crackers – they are great for children since they taste good and pack the energy kids need for hikes.
A lot of your snack breaks will be unplanned as well, so make sure you take extra food. A bag of M&Ms or Milky Way bars can also be used as a reward when you reach your destination, while giving extra energy for the long hike back.

2. Teach them!
Take lessons beyond the classroom walls. Children learn better when they can actually see, feel, touch, smell, and even taste – so, for example, let them feel the trees and smell the flowers.
In addition, there are a lot of things you can teach your kids about nature while on the hike. Talk to them about gravity, about the different kinds of trees and animals and insects, about why the sky turns a light shade of blue in the morning and midnight blue at night, and perhaps about how to make fire out of sticks (this one could take ages, but the look of amazement on your kids’ faces when they learn that their daddy can make fire by rubbing two sticks together will be worth it!). In fact, the potential lessons that nature – and you as the guide – could offer are endless!

3. Plan a lot of nice activities for them.
Children get bored easily. You can’t just expect them to sit still and appreciate the wonder of nature around them. You have to have a lot of “tricks” up your sleeve if you want to keep your kids having fun while you are out hiking. For instance, encourage them to find and pick up little rocks and sticks for souvenirs.
If you’re planning on pitching a tent and camping, then arrange for even more activities. For example, S’mores and singing around a campfire are two events every child should enjoy when outdoors for the night. And don’t forget to pack their bathing suits because I’m sure they will beg to go swimming in the lake. You might also look up at the stars at night. Show them a bit of basic astronomy and introduce them to Orion and the Big Dipper.
Remember, while hiking with kids is different than hiking with adults, the rewards are just as great. Serving as a wilderness guide for young ones will not only help to open their world to nature, it might just help open yours a little more, too.

Nicole is a writer for the National Directory of State Parks

If you are looking to refresh your gear this season, you can read her informative piece on “

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