Hiking with kids can be a true pleasure or a complete bear (no pun intended). It’s all about a healthy mindset, with a healthy dose of preparation! I’ve been hiking with my kids since they could barely walk. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:
8 Tips for Clean Air Hiking With Kids
- Any hiking is better than no hiking. Getting outside with your family is the goal. If your heart is set on summiting that peak, well, that might not happen! Getting children outside and breathing fresh air also gets them away from indoor air pollution, from industrial chemicals and away from the air pollution in urban centers.
- Bring more food than you think you will need. Kids use up calories FAST. We always burn through our food. Remember to pack enough food for YOU too. And, bring a food surprise. I’m not big into bribing kids, but hiking is different. I tell my kids I have a surprise for them at the top of the mountain. I don’t give any hints, but I tell them they will like it. During our last hike it was cookie. At the top I let them have two each. This was a big treat for them — and with my youngest, I am sure it’s the only thing that got us to the top. Need some homemade ideas? See this list from Buzzfeed. (Homemade Cliff Bars? Yes please!)
- Take note of the impacts of climate change. Discuss with your children by asking —What is happening in our local ecosystem? Are invasive species more successful because of a warming climate? Do forest fires impact your hike and air quality? Do you notice a shorter, warmer fall in your area or more ticks? My guess is yes to some or all of these. Discussing what you notice with your kids helps them realize the critical importance of addressing climate change. The impacts we see are happening NOW, not generations from now. The more this becomes part of daily discussions, the more we can raise a generation to take action to protect public health and our environment from the dangers of climate change.
- Play the story game. This is where one person starts a story for a sentence or two and passes it along to the next person to continue. We’ve spent hours hiking and weaving tales about imaginary creatures. Yes, sometimes my brain turns into swiss cheese, but it’s worth it to keep the kids engaged. More trail games (and riddles!) here.
- Speak out for the environment and wild places. Sharing photos of your kids hiking will also communicate the value of protecting the environment. Our children are worth clean air activism that promotes the health and well-being of our children.
- Take a LOT of breaks. One of my girls wants to take many breaks — it can be maddening. But their legs are just so dang short. They need breaks. Keep the parent/kid power struggles off he hiking trail and just take the break.
- Celebrate hard effort, no matter what. If you only make it halfway, celebrate that you made it halfway. Don’t let the lack of achieving the goal reduce the sense of good will or happiness about the experience.
- After the hike, tell friends and family about it. Your kids will hear you talking about the hike and know that you are proud of them, that you enjoyed family time, and that you want to do it again.
What are your tips for hiking with kids this summer? Where are your favorite places? Here are some more ways to enjoy the outdoors with your kids before the snow flies.