Hiking with kids
Hiking as a search term is still experiencing a 30% growth from pre-covid times. Has the perception of hiking changed, and how can you get your family into this rediscovered pursuit? Aaron, Chief Mischief-Maker at Treasure Trails, shares his seven top tips for hiking with kids.
When I was a kid in the ’80s, hiking wasn’t particularly cool – sorry, ramblers! Sticks, gaiters, whopping bags, and chunky boots didn’t make it an accessible hobby. So, my parents just took me for walks with the dog instead.
They were nice, but we don’t just want ‘nice’ nowadays - we want ‘awesome’.
Now a parent to two young boys, my wife and I are always striving to peel the kids away from the TV or tablet – if only we’d not given in to that one so soon! We want to get the boys to enjoy the fresh air and, more importantly, explore.
I don’t think I valued a good view until my 30s. I travelled the world in my 20s and saw some insane places, but they were all a little “meh” as I focused more on the next adrenaline activity or party.
It’s important to remember this when getting your family into walking or hiking. What you’ll get out of it and what will motivate you will be different to what your seven-year-old will need as a sense of reward. The epic view around the next corner may be a little “meh” to your little ‘un, but that bit of granite or unusual landmark you find may send their imagination into overdrive.
So, with them in mind, here are my tips for making walks enjoyable for children, all learned after many successful (and unsuccessful!) hikes adventures with my young explorers.
Aaron's top hiking tips
1. Plan the route
This may sound obvious, but long routes of the same stuff get boring for legs with a stride half the length of yours. Make sure the route you plan has several different points of interest to engage little ones. Points of interest for a child may not be the same as what interests you.
Think rocks or trees to climb, swings, streams to wade in, tunnels to peak through, stones to hop across, etc. Don’t just walk forwards - veer off the track, look up and down or to the side. It’s okay to be fluid on your walk.
2. Consider their point of view
I don’t mean their opinion on whether they’d rather be walking or watching cartoons. I mean their literal viewpoint. Pre-teen kids are likely to be a good few feet lower than you. If all they can see is the hedge and the back of your legs while you’re spotting all the good stuff, that’s pretty rubbish.
Consider this, and even get down to their height on the walk. It’ll save you giving them piggyback rides for the whole hike too.
3. Use all your senses
How many senses do you usually use on a hike? Possibly sight to watch where you’re putting your feet and to take in the views. Maybe sound to listen for running water or other wanderers approaching. But tapping into all your senses turns a walk into a full-blown adventure.
Inspire your children by taking off your shoes and walking through the squidgy mud, smelling that stinky plant or tasting the fruit off the trees (although, check it’s safe to eat first!). We’ve got some great tips on exploring with your senses here.
4. You're on an adventure, not a hike
Walking is boring to a kid (and many adults, especially kidults), so you never go on walks - you go on adventures. If you’re a bit uncomfortable with the role play, start with the classic ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, then raise the stakes to searches for lost treasures or manuscripts.
Everything can be ‘evidence’ or ‘clues’, from tracks in the mud to sticks crossing over to make an X. Tell a story whilst you walk and give the walk a purpose - it’s that word ‘imagination’ again.
5. All explorers need rewards
I’m not talking about an extra 30 minutes on Minecraft when they get home, but the reward around the walk’s purpose. If you’re going to look for lost diamonds, find some stones which look like diamonds. Kids aren’t going to take them to the local jewellers to get them verified, so allow their imagination to sparkle.
You can always take rewards to hide or hand over at the end, snacks or otherwise. If you listen and watch children when they role play, there’s always an objective - a bog-standard ‘walk’ doesn’t achieve this.
6. Kit is king
It goes without saying to take enough clothes and snacks for the kids. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be used to having spares of everything on you at all times. But also consider giving them an explorer kit.
If they like dressing up, provide them with a pirate’s hat while they look for treasure, binoculars, a hand-drawn map or secret explorer badge or glasses. Getting them into character is essential, which brings me onto…
7. If you want to get kids into hiking, make this walk for them
Don’t drag them along while you and your partner talk about the rising fuel prices, the latest news headline or the shopping list.
Really engage with your kids, running to the next exciting spot whilst holding hands, looking for clues or scrambling down that “secret” path, and keep talking to your kids about the adventure you are on.
If you take these tips on board, I can guarantee that what used to be a challenging 30-minute walk in the woods will soon become an exciting adventure panning over a couple of hours and miles. It won’t be long before summits are tackled, and hiking (but we won’t call it that) becomes a key recipe for success in your children’s healthy, happy life.
We're here to lend a hand
I don’t like to brag, but as part of the team behind award-winning Treasure Trails, I know a thing or two about turning a boring walk into a real-life adventure.
We’ve entertained over two million people with our self-guided, themed Treasure Trails. If you’d rather someone else do the work for you on the route and storytelling, have a look at where we have Trails close to you.
Trails come in three themes: detective mystery, spy mission, and explorers on a treasure hunt. With over 1,200 titles across the UK exploring towns, cities and villages, there’s sure to be one on your doorstep.
What’s more, a Trail costs just £9.99 for the whole family and comes with a host of other benefits, such as unlocking virtual rewards, physical Mini Explorer packs, and a chance to win some real treasure.
Rated 4.8 (out of 5) across independent review platforms, give a Treasure Trail a go to get some inspiration.
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