For many families, it is a constant challenge each weekend to find new things to do with the kids. Once the run of trips to the beach, vacations, the mall and movies have become mundane, the battle between giving in to device time vs. knowing we should be spending quality time begins to brew as civil war in our parental mind.
However, one of the things to do with kids that many overlook is simply, hiking. Before you dismiss the idea and head for comfort of the couch while settling in with some popcorn and Netflix, consider these facts: In 2014, over 36 million — yes, million, people participated in hiking. That is a combination of kids and adults.
The benefits are many. Quality time together, opportunity to discuss school, friends, issues, or, things you see along the trail. According to goodhiker.com, some of the health benefits for kids include:
- Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
- Better bone health
- Less chance of becoming overweight
- Less chance of developing risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Possibly reduced risk of depression and feeling less stress, more ready to learn in school
- Sleeping better at night
Great read: 10 Worst Parenting Tips Ever for Babies
Being prepared not only mentally, with expectation, but with your provisions, will make the hike seamless. Some things to keep in mend for the first few hikes
- Bring plenty of water (or, a hydration backpack)
- When just starting out, hike short distances and be mindful to travel at a child’s pace
- Let kids participate in planning the hike
- Emphasize fun: play games, look for treasure, try geocaching
- Stay close to home, it can be in the city, country, a park; find a treasure, have a picnic, follow a river
Add an element of surprise. For example, you could say “for every waterfall we see, we stop and do 10 jumping jacks.” Or, track how many different trail critters you see.
- Bring a digital camera for your child to use; let them capture the world at their own whim.
- You can also bring along a collection bag for the backpack. You never know what you will find–a unique rock, a cool leaf, a coin, a four-leaf clover.
Keep in mind, kids legs are short and typically, for every one step an adult takes equals three steps for a child. Kids are also very curious; if you are expecting an intense cardio workout, it will not likely happen on this hike unless you are carrying your child. Many kids like to stop, explore and touch, feel or observe their world. This is the time to understand patience and being in the moment with your child. Let them lead, empower your child to go left, right or straight; to go through the water or around the water and, what those consequences could be. Use the trail map and teach your child about the symbols used in hiking, trail navigation and map markings.
No matter where you hike or for how long, ensure you plan a few refueling stops and, pack your backpack with:
- Bug and tick spray
- Children’s Tylenol and/or ibuprofen
- Calamine lotion for bug bites
- Tweezers to remove splinters, ticks and needles
- Moleskin bandages for blisters and sores
- Epi-pen for allergic stings
Do you have a great hiking story or tip to share? We would love to hear from you and possibly, share your story.
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