Family hikes are a great way to create memories, build family unity and have a great time together. Here are 10 things you can do to make your family hikes more enjoyable.
1. Plan with a trail guide
A trail map or book of local hikes can help you find the hikes the right distance and difficulty for your family. Consider the time and terrain when planning a hike with children. Pre-schoolers wear out after 30 to 40 minutes, older children can go one to two hours, and teenagers can hike for longer. The average foot speed for hiking is about 3 miles per hour. Look for trails the right distance for the time you want to be on the trail. The older the child, the tougher trail they'll be able to handle. In most trail guides, hikes are marked easy, moderate or difficult.
2. Choose a destination
It's nice to have something to aim for so the kids know when they have arrived. It's a place you can rest, have a snack and talk for a while. Lakes, waterfalls, overlooks, rock formations and historical sites all make good destinations. Destination hikes give kids the feeling that they've accomplished something.
3. Be Prepared
Following this Boy Scout motto means you wear sunscreen, take plenty of water, snacks and check the weather before you go. You should always bring a first-aid kit, compass, and a flashlight just in case.
4. Take plenty of breaks
Stop to rest when you see the kids lagging behind a little. It's a hike, not a race. When kids are overly tired it leads to whining and that's not fun for anyone. Allow your kids to stop and look at things along the trail. Exploring nature is part of the point of getting kids outdoors. A kid's favorite part of the hike might be smelling the wildflowers or throwing rocks in the river.
5. Have a scavenger hunt
Keep your kids' interest by having them look for things along the trail. Make a list of things kids can collect in a bag or a list of things to spot. Finding a geocache or a letterbox is also a lot of fun. Visit letterboxing.org or geocaching.com to find a target.
6. Let the kids lead
A sure fire way to give a child a burst of energy is to let them lead the way. Help them stay on the trail and let them point out possible difficulties ahead for the rest of the group.
7. Take radios
Use handheld radios to allow family members to split up and hike at a different pace. This takes the pressure off family members who feel they're "too slow." Kids love using the radios and will naturally keep in contact every few minutes. Have those ahead stop and wait every once in a while.
8. Wear bright colors
Bright colors help you to more easily spot your kids along the trail or while they explore your destination. It also helps them be able to spot you more easily if they get separated.
9. Take plenty of pictures
Let your kids ham it up along the trail, but also let them take the camera to capture their own memories.
10. Be positive - attitude is everything
Kids take cues from their parents when deciding if an activity is worthwhile. Tell them they can do it and they can. Tell them it's too hard and it will be. Don't let minor setbacks ruin your fun.
Try these one or more of these tips the next time you and your children go on a hike and see what a difference they can make for your family.