Whether you're a parent to a newborn or a teenager, it's never too early or too late to start thinking about giving your child a love for the outdoors. Experiences hiking through the woods, seeing the view from a mountain top, and encountering flora and fauna will build memories that stick with children for a lifetime. An appreciation for the outside provides an outlet beyond electronic devices to enjoy nature firsthand, get exercise, and appreciate the environment around us.
So, how can you get your kids outside?
Find hikes that are suitable to the level of your children. For infants, they might not be ready to walk, but you can take them to local parks in a stroller, or take them on treks in a baby carrier. Toddlers can work up to handling trails of a mile or two with practice, but start small, as you don't want to be all the way out on a trail and have meltdown to handle! Elementary school aged kids and teens are likely ready to tackle moderate mountain climbs, although, of course, consider experience and skill level in the process.
This advice holds particularly true for toddlers, who bask in experiencing every part of the outdoors hands-on. Whether digging in dirt, gathering sticks, or finding bugs, toddlers will be sure to find distractions on every inch of the trail. And that's fine! It's all part of the outdoor experience.
With this in mind, it's important to plan out hike distances that will account for longer times when younger kids are involved. Even with older kids, realize that climbs up steep elevation can take significantly longer than covering the same distance on flat land. Allow plenty of time to get up and back down long before sunset if only planning a day trip.
Come prepared with plenty of snacks and drinks for the journey! Trail mixes (Amazon makes some great reasonably priced ones) are a good option, with a mix of nuts and dried fruit to provide energy. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a classic lunch, as well as fresh fruits like apples and bananas. Remember to bring an extra bag for trash such as wrappers, so you can be sure to teach children not to litter and keep trails looking nice.
For drinks, water is crucial: always bring more water than you need. Invest in decent water bottles (we're a fan of HydroFlask for keeping beverages cold/hot for hours) or hydration packs that can easily be worn in a backpack. Avoid sugary drinks like soda. Sports drinks, which contain electrolytes, can be beneficial as well, although sometimes are overhyped.
To help your kids be more excited about going out, involve them in planning the hike. Younger kids may love simply looking at a map, while older kids can review trail options and possibly have a chance to pick where to go.
Along the way, let kids help navigate, looking for trail markers on the path. Help them learn how to be wary of spots where the trail may falsely seem to branch off, or mark intersections for return routes so you go back the correct way.
Make sure your kids are well dressed for wherever you're going! If temperatures are cold, use multiple layers that can be shed as needed, and cover extremeties that will be exposed to the elements with heavy gloves and hats. In warmer weather, provide lightweight clothes, but be prepared for cooler weather at high elevations (particularly for smaller bodies). Good shoes and boots can help kids get traction as well.
Older kids will be able to carry their own gear. A decent daypack will provide back support and be able to be worn for hours without causing discomfort.
As long as you put the proper care into planning an age-appropriate route and coming prepared with the right gear and sustenance, your kids will be able to have a great time outdoors. Start building an appreciation for the outdoors early, and you'll be able to continue outdoor activities for the rest of their lives!
How do you get your kids involved outside? Share with us and we'll publish your tips!
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