4 Useful Parenting Tips for Hiking With Kids in the Mountains: From an Outdoor Mom
If you’re an outdoor mom like myself, you might be wondering how to get your kids interested in the outdoors and how to raise outdoors-loving kids.
Being out in nature and going on hikes are important to me. I wanted to instill that love for the outdoors in my kids - especially hiking in the mountains.
1.) The mountains are one of my favorite places to be.
2.) Hiking is one of my favorite activities to do.
3.) Being out in nature is healing and so good for cognitive development in both adults and kids.
But you might be yelling at your computer screen as you read this, “Lauren, how do I go hiking with kids? It seems impossible.”
Luckily, I got you covered with some tried and true parenting tips for hiking with kids that’ll leave your kids begging to get out into the mountains every weekend.
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Hiking with Kids Backpacks
If you’re looking to be equipped with the best gear on your hike, here are some Amazon’s best kids backpacks for hikes.
*But full transparency - I usually just carry a drawstring backpack right from the closet*
Hiking with Kids Carrier
Once kids reach 2 or older, I firmly believe that they should spend most of the hike - well hiking instead of being carried. But in case they get tired or you reach a dangerous spot, here are some of the best kids carriers from Amazon.
Hiking with kids checklists
Looking to know what to take when hiking with kids, here is my go to checklist of all the essentials I make sure I have when hiking. This is obviously an exhaustive list, and you definitely don’t need to take all of these things every time you go on a hike.
Ranked by priority.
4 Useful Parenting Tips for Hiking With Kids in the Mountains:
Now that you have all the appropriate hiking with kids gear packed and ready to go, you might be wondering - “Okay, but how do I actually get them to hike?”
Read on for four useful parenting tips when hiking with kids.
1. Give kids responsibilities
Kids like to feel important, especially younger ones. That's the reason why I suggest giving them a responsibility while hiking - something that makes them feel important.
I like to give my son the responsibility of staying on the trail.
“Okay, your job is to make sure we are going the right way on the path. This is very important.”
A lot of trails, especially in the mountains, have some type of marker to indicate you are going the right way.
Maybe it is a colored shape (orange diamond, blue circle) fixated on the trees. It could be a sign with an arrow. It could be the rock formations called cairns (pronounced Care-in). It could be a log drilled into the ground to act as a step.
Whatever it is you can tell your child to find the next one to make sure you are going the right way. Really play this up and praise your child for finding the next one every time.
“Wow, you found it! I didn’t see it. Thanks to you we aren’t getting lost!”
Other responsibilities can be
Establish responsibilities at the beginning of the trip and take them seriously.
But obviously if your kids want to abandon ship and just leisurely hike, that is fine too!
2. Have an incentive
Over time, our goal is to have the hike be incentive enough, but at first, you might need to give your kids an incentive to keep them going.
For example, recently we were doing a waterfall loop hike. There were three waterfalls on our hike. I told our son that once we got to a waterfall we would stop to have a cracker.
After certain designated checkpoints or time frames, you can offer your child an incentive. Snacks, treats, stickers, or something fun.
Phrase the incentive as a first-then statement.
“First, we reach the waterfall. Then, we will have a snack.”
Adults need to reward themselves too when they exercise. Kids are the same, so offer incentives.
3. Go at their pace
It’s important to remember to manage your expectations when going on a hike. Keep the hike relatively short and go at your child’s pace.
Let your child stop to discover things, touch things, and point out things. All of those things are learning.
They are learning about the world and how things work when they throw a rock or leaf into a stream.
They are learning about the world when they try to balance on a log.
They are learning about the world when they pick up sticks and walk with them.
So go at their pace.
4. Choose the right trail
When hiking with your kids, it is important to choose the right trail for them. Here are some of my criteria I consider when hiking with my son:
Once you have established your criteria, you can choose a trail that is just right for your kids.
Now that you have these useful tips for hiking with your kids, you can now get outdoors and enjoy nature. Please comment below some of your favorite trails to hike with your kids. I’d love to hear all about them.
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Photo used under Creative Commons from does_not_travel_often