If you are a hiking expert, want to do a multi-day overnight hike, or are going to be hiking in unfavorable weather (e.g. the cold), then this post may not be for you. Otherwise, read on. This is what I have done for hikes with my four young kids.
But first, one anecdote:
It was a hot and sweaty day at the beginning of summer. My husband and I unloaded our four children from our SUV. I strapped our youngest, a baby, to my chest. We greeted our friends, a couple who had met us to go on this hike together. I was delighted to see them, or any adults for that matter, given this was after more than a year of Covid times. Over logs and dead leaves, we made our own path winding through the woods. After about an hour, I was sweating and tired. Then my friend said, "It's so lucky that your children like hiking! We didn't bring ours because they don't enjoy it."
This comment completely surprised me because our children don't particularly like hiking. In fact, one of them (the oldest) complains profusely through every hike we take. But nonetheless, it had not occurred to me that not taking them on this hike was even an option. Yes, it would've been difficult to find someone to watch them. But that aside, it had not crossed my mind that them merely not liking an enriching activity was reason enough either not to do the activity at all, or to do it without them. I feel like for the most part, when one of us goes somewhere, we all go. I felt like the conclusion that because they were doing the activity, they liked the activity, was erroneous, but also enlightening. I felt really thankful that we're the kind of parents who say "How can we make this work for our family?" instead of "Forget it."
So, here's what we do:
Cooler You certainly don't have to keep your drinks / waters cold, but I find it very restorative and more energizing when it is. What I've found works best for us is a cooler backpack that one of the adults can carry. Yes, we could make every child carry their own water, but when they already tire out much sooner than us, do we really want to add to their burden? We keep our cooler cold with ice packs.
Snacks and Drinks I like having a formula. My formula per child is: one juice box or bottled water, one pack of fruit snacks, and maybe one individual serving of chips or a fruit roll up. I also bring two to three spare juice boxes or waters. Is this the healthiest snack option? No. But they are exercising, and they do look forward to these snacks.
Breaks I like to take a break at the middle of the hike and do snacks at that point, rather than waiting to the end. The kids are far less cranky this way, and they do a bit of open-ended play during the break as well (e.g. draw with a stick, throw pebbles into the water, look for guppies, etc.).
Kids' Attire I like to have each child wearing a sun hat (usually a bucket hat instead of a baseball cap) and Crocs without socks. Where we are, things can get pretty wet, and Crocs are great for that. Crocs don't have a lot of grip so they are not ideal for slippery terrain (e.g. a rocky hill), but they are great for walking through a creek.
Other Items to Bring Bug spray. Sun block.
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