We have lived in some prime locations near state and national parks. Because of that, we have been hiking with our kids since they were babies. Hiking with kids is a great family activity when you plan ahead.
Whether you will be hiking with an infant or an older child, this guide will prepare you to enjoy the time in nature.
Family time in nature is recharge time for us. I feel so much better after getting out and exploring a trail.
There are some precautions and tips to keep in mind when hiking with kids. This post is sponsored by GMT for Kids. All opinions are my own. Please view my disclosure for more info.
My husband and I have taken all of our children hiking. We started with carrying them in a backpack carrier. Then we progressed to having them carry their own snacks and water in comfortable backpacks.
My children always feel empowered to carry their own bag. It helps them feel capable and strong.
Kids love movement, nature and exploration. So, hiking is a win-win activity for families. Consider these tips to make your next hike with the kids a successful time for your whole family.
10 Tips for Hiking with Kids
1) Start with a trail that is kid-friendly. We tend to hike 1-2 miles when we hike with our kids. I always prepare the kids ahead of time for how far we will go. They tend to be more positive.
As they have gotten older, we extend the hikes a bit. Start on short trails and add miles as the kids are capable.
2) Dress in layers. We have lived in some extreme climates like Twentynine Palms, California and Grand Forks, North Dakota. Extreme summer heat in the desert and very cold winters up north means dressing in layers. This helps us stay cool when it is hot, or warm when it is cooler out.
3) Plan in some exploration time. Kids will hike at a slower pace than adults. They will also want to stop and explore along the way. This is a great way for them to learn about nature. Be patient with them and allow for that exploration time to notice the things around them.
4) Share about the hike ahead of time. I love all of the ideas here for preparing kids to get excited about a hike. I have a child that loves holding the map and knowing exactly where we are going.
So many park and trail maps are available online. It is easy to find a trail map and view it ahead of time with the kids.
5) Plan in a lot of buffer time. This is important especially with toddlers and preschoolers. A 1-2 mile hike will take a little bit of time. Be prepared to spend more time hiking with kids since their pace will be slower.
6) Equip the kids to carry their snacks, water and jacket in an ergonomic backpack for kids. As soon as the kids are around 4-5 years old, they carry their water bottle and snacks in their own backpack.
The backpacks from GMT for Kids are very well structured to keep the weight balanced on a child’s back. The straps at the chest and waist help distribute weight. And, the padded shoulder straps are extremely comfortable.
GMT for Kids backpacks are specifically designed to help school age kids carry their work to and from school comfortably.
I remember how heavy my backpack felt as a child. The structured, lightweight support of GMT for Kids backpacks are a great design. It helps distribute the weight. The compartments are perfect for all the items kids need to have with them at school.
They offer ergonomic school backpacks best for elementary school kids in 1st – 5th grade. The bags are ultra-light and offer professional protection on the back and spine. We found some fun extras as well like stencils, a character keychain and interchangeable words of encouragement.
A child’s backpack is an essential school supply that doubles as a great outdoor pack for hiking. GMT for Kids believes that a well-designed backpack is also a proactive way to solve children’s back problems. This helps take care of their health.
I love that they thought of so many details to make the backpacks fun for kids. They also give parents peace of mind with the great quality.
7) Make a learning activity out of the hike. Hiking is a sensory learning opportunity for children. If the trail does not have any specific warnings about taking items, I let my kids gather some leaves, rocks and pine cones as we hike.
Hiking with kids provides a great opportunity for that nature connection. We take the items home and create a nature collage with them like this one. Read books about nature, hiking or the national parks to extend the activity even further at home.
8) Soak in the benefits of hiking! Hiking with kids has so many positives.
- Exercise and stress relief.
- The freedom to openly explore while doing an activity as a family.
- Builds the parent-child relationship.
>>>Read More: This is a great list for more ideas of activities to do with your child that build the parent-child bond.
9) Leave the electronics at home. Taking a few pictures here and there along the hike is great for the memories. But, keep the electronic use to a minimum to stay present in the activity and nature. It sets a great example for our children about healthy screen time usage too.
10) Realize a hike with kids is outdoor classroom time. Children learn so much from hands-on experiences. Hiking is that for them.
They see our national parks firsthand, learn the history of them and to appreciate nature.
Hiking with Kids Bottom Line
Whether your child is an infant, toddler or preschooler, they can hike with you. Babies can nap in a backpack carrier. Toddlers can look for special nature items along a trail. Preschoolers are at an age where they can use a quality kids backpack and hike a bit longer.
We still love hikes as a family. It really is connection and rest together. Plus hikes are an activity that kids of all ages can do.
What is your favorite hike to do with kids? Which tips helped out the most on your last hike?
Enjoy your time at home!