KEEN Parent Hacks: Fall Hiking With Kids
What happens when you mention the word “hike” in your home?
If your kiddo screams for joy and grabs their favorite hiking shoes, by all means do a little happy dance inside and enjoy supporting their enthusiasm with some rewarding trail time! But if, let’s just say, that enthusiasm is NOT being expressed whatsoever, especially as they enter the pre-teen/teen stage (just sayin’), all is not lost. It might just require getting a little creative and upping your snack game.
Here’s the thing: In our experience, once kids are out on the trail, they love being out there on the trail. So what can you do to get from the front door to the trailhead? We asked parents here at KEEN, and we’ve got some tricks down our socks for you.
Keep it fun with games
“When my kids complain about walking home from school, I take out my stopwatch and see how fast we can make it home. Or see who can spot the most mushrooms. The same idea works when walking anywhere!” – KEEN parent Ginny
A FEW QUICK GAME IDEAS:
• Make up a trail song together
• Match the paint swatch. (If you've got some leftover paint swatches around the house, bring them with you and see who can match them up with objects seen on the trail first.)
• Scavenger hunt! Grab our printable.
The way we get hiking to be fun is we keep it short. We also expect there to be a lot of stops. We often talk about searching for clues to see if there are animals nearby, or look for wildflowers.
Involve splash time
“I can’t keep them out of the creeks along trails, and yesterday I made the rookie move of not bringing extra clothes.” – KEEN parent David
• Waterproof boots or hybrid trail/water sandals if it’s warm where you are
• Towel (we love those compact microfiber ones)
• Spare outfit
• Compact fishing rod or net for some fishing fun along the water
Look for wildlife
“The hype of the possibility of seeing animals works like a charm.” – KEEN parent Ellen
• Early morning and late day hikes give you the best chance to see wildlife (except lizards … they bask in midday sun)
• Take along a pocket bird guide
• Creek beds and fresh snow offer the best opportunities for seeing animal tracks
• Load a plant ID app on your phone
“Lately we’ve been taking a small bucket with us to pick blackberries. We also take the binoculars to see what things we can find.” – KEEN parent Christina
GO-TO GEAR TO GRAB:
• Binoculars or magnifying glass
• Bug observer
• Digital camera (turn it into photography practice for your teen)
Feed happy energy
“Snacks are very important and having a good variety of them.” – KEEN parent Angela
• GORP (Good ole raisins and peanuts) but let them help create their own mixture, which is sure to include chocolate
• Dried fruit - easy to eat, and sweet
• Crispy rice treats - see our recipe here
• Something to warm the belly. KEEN mom Kristy packs a small one burner and pan to make hot dogs or quesadillas on the trail or as a parking-lot picnic. Or cook it ahead of time, like KEEN mom Aura does.
• Post-hike ice cream or another stop on the way home that celebrates the experience
We hope these tips help you get your crew of happy hikers outside and onto the trail. KEEN mom Angela has one more tip once you’re out there: “The way we get hiking to be fun is we keep it short. Our daughter is almost 4, so we use the rule of half her age is the max hike we do. A mile and a half to two miles is perfect. We also expect there to be a lot of stops. We often talk about searching for clues to see if there are animals nearby, or look for wildflowers.”
What works for you? We’d love to hear it and see your hiking adventures together. Share them and tag @keen.kids so we all have a few new tricks for the trail.
Our kiddos on the trail