I have two kids ages one and five. They have so much energy and no matter what I do, nothing exhausts them. They are on the go 24/7, exploring, creating and really just getting into mischief. We live in the beautiful state of Idaho in the USA, which offers many different outdoor activities for people of all ages. One of our favorite things to do is hiking with our young kids. It’s easy, fun and everyone in the family can participate.
In the fall it is absolutely gorgeous. The weather is cool and the fall colours are bright and beautiful. I knew the season was ending soon, so I wanted to get the kids out before it became too cold and slippery from the snow. I packed up the essentials and headed out the door. However, the ‘experience’ I had created in my head was not what happened at all and I have decided to share my 5 tips for hiking with young kids.
Tips for Hiking with Young Kids
Take serious play clothes:
- You know which ones I’m talking about. The clothes in the very back of their drawer that they never wear. The clothes that don’t have a friendly ‘match’ or the ones that were gifted where you thought, “When will my child ever wear this?” The special ones that have more holes than cloth, but you can’t get rid of them because they are the perfect play clothes for a rainy day. The clothes you care nothing about because I promise you, they will find rocks, mud and bugs and will sit themselves down to play, and they will never come clean.
Bring water and snacks:
- Have you ever fed your kids dinner or any meal really, and then 10 minutes later said they were hungry and needed a snack? No? Then your kids are weird. I don’t know about teenagers because I don’t have any, but little kids are always hungry. Always. We were only 5 minutes into our hike when my oldest said he was “starving and really needed something to eat!” I obliged and handed over the snacks. From that point on they were happy as clams, snacks in hand and eating the entire time.
Map out your trail ahead of time:
- Have a plan and know where you want to go. I am usually by myself for many of the activities I do with my kids. So it is much easier for me if I have a plan in advance. How far do you want to walk? What’s your final destination? Young kids are not going to last walking long distances. They get tired quickly and need frequent breaks to rest their legs. You want it to be enjoyable without constantly nagging to ‘keep moving’. Find trails that are flatter instead of an incline. I promise they will love the ability to roam and explore on their own. You can watch from a safe distance while they ‘navigate’ the hike on their own time because the whole idea was to just get them out of the house in the first place, right?
Now lower your expectations:
- Seriously. Like really low. When we started on the trail I knew exactly where I wanted to end up. But it wasn’t about me. It was about them. We never even started our hike. We were at the bottom the entire time! I am not kidding. My kids literally stopped to dig in the dirt 237 times. Ok, that may be an exaggeration but they were so happy and found so much joy out of all that dirt. They had fists full of dirt!
Enjoy it for what it is:
- We may not have finished the hike, nor did we start but we have many years ahead of us to hike cool rock formations or discover beautiful waterfalls. It was just so nice to be outside with my kids, seeing the pure joy on their faces as they were free to just explore. They talked to every person who passed us by and petted every dog. It was a simple thing but they had the best time. Try to enjoy the simplicity of it and see it through their eyes.
My goal to get them out of the house and away from electronics was a success because they played and explored for two hours. In the end, my oldest said it was the best day ever and then they both fell asleep before I pulled out of the parking lot. I hope these 5 tips for hiking with young kids can help you enjoy the great outdoors with your littles, no matter the season. So go ahead! Head on out together and see what little joys can be found.
If you are feeling adventurous you can try this itinerary in Switzerland to get your little crew hiking and enjoying the countryside.
Traveling with kids who have autism? Check out this mom’s perspective on how to get the best out of your trip while helping your kids broaden their horizons.