The idea of hiking with your kids may invoke thoughts of birds chirping, plenty of laughter, and a smiling summit photo so beautiful it doesn’t even need an instagram filter. However, the reality of hiking with your kids is that factors such as, but not limited to: weather, blood sugar levels, snake sightings, and “last one to the top is a rotten egg” status, can make or break your adventure. But preparation is half the battle, so I present to you “8 tips for hiking with your kids”, a survival guide based on a true story.
You can thank me later.
8) Acquire the patience of a Saint. You are going to need it. And brace yourself, there will be whining.
7) Block off the entire day. Do not make any other plans, for your normal 1 hour round trip hike may take three, four, or even ten times that duration depending on effort, distraction level, and goldfish cracker consumption.
6) Accept your new role as a pack mule. The sooner you accept this reality, the easier your hike will be. On a similar note, leave room in your own pack for absolutely everything your child brings with them: water bottles, sweatshirts, even their own backpacks, because chances are you’ll be the one carrying all of it before the day is over.
5) Do not, I repeat, DO NOT cave in and carry anyone unless it is an utter emergency. If you get suckered by that cute puppy dog face and carry a kid early on, it is almost assured that their legs will mysteriously “stop working”, thus requiring you to carry them for the duration of the hike. Kids are manipulative, so stay strong. Exception to this rule, of course, is if you are training for any sort of event that requires heavy, awkward carrying, such as an obstacle course race or a wife carrying contest.
4) Accept the fact that there will be blood. The child who simply couldn’t get his or her legs to work on the uphill portion will decide to sprint at full speed back down the trail on the return trip. Despite hundreds of “please slow down!” and “please be careful!” warnings out of your mouth, said child will undoubtedly not just fall, but trip in an epic fashion and then body surf on their stomach face first downhill across all of the sharpest rocks. The result will likely only be scraped knees and palms, but said child will most definitely be convinced that they will not survive this ordeal. Further, between the tears you will be informed that you are a horrible parent for taking them on this dangerous trail, and they really should have just stayed home inside all day, as the Super Mario Brothers are MUCH safer than hiking.
4a) Bring Band-aids.
3) Bring toilet paper. Despite numerous “potty” visits minutes before leaving, someone is going to have to poop in the woods.
2) Apply skillful distraction methods. You know, the kind you acquire the second you become a parent. Little legs tired? Check out that toad! Cries of “I’m boooreeed!”? Create a scavenger hunt! Sing songs, play “I spy”, just don’t scream “BEAR” and take off running in order to lighten the mood. Little kids don’t respond well to life-or-death jokes.
And most importantly:
1) Encourage, encourage, encourage. Resist the urge to tell your fully capable 7 year old that he is moving slower than a 90 year old with a walker. On a serious note, tell them how impressed you are that they are tackling such a big adventure. Positive reinforcement works far better than the alternative…especially when you have made it past the halfway point. Play along when you reach the summit and they believe they are now on top of the world, because in their little minds, they truly are. Encourage the adventure…one day they will thank you.