With summer rapidly approaching, many parents are beginning to plan for activities everyone can enjoy. We have all heard of the many benefits of outdoor play and outdoor activities, so including outside fun in your plans is highly recommended for all ages.
With more than 340 parks in San Diego, hiking would be an excellent activity to include in the regular rotation of summer plans. We have listed below 5 tips that will help the entire family enjoy hiking together while keeping it stress-free and fun!
1. Plan for the terrain
When selecting a hike, it is recommended to research the terrain of the areas before you hit the trail. Understanding the terrain will help you determine what to bring (e.g. pets, walking sticks, or extra water) and what to wear (e.g. types of shoes or sun cover). For parents of younger children, this research will help you determine whether a stroller can be used or if a carrier would be more suitable once kids start to become tired. Also, consider how the weather will impact the terrain – if you are hiking over rocks, they may become slippery in rainy conditions.
2. Only carry the essentials
As parents/caregivers, it can be tempting to bring along every possible thing you could need on your hiking trip. However, any unnecessary extra weight will make the hike less enjoyable and more tiring for whoever does the carrying. Consider travel size bottles of things like bug spray and sunscreen – you can purchase empty bottles in the travel section of many stores and fill them with your own products. Items that can easily fit in pockets or small hiking backpacks are best. Water is essential to keep everyone hydrated, and there are ways to carry water that help make it less cumbersome – like this hydration pack that comes in a kids size! These bags also allow for a few additional small items like a snack and sunscreen. A small flashlight and a few carabiner clips to attach items like keys and wallets are among the items to consider including on your “must have” list.
Tip: Visit your local outdoor gear store like REI, and ask the camping department for their recommendations. They will often have recommendations for hikes in the area too.
3. Start small
Consider building up to longer hikes with kids after a few shorter test runs. While children appear to have limitless energy, hiking can strain our bodies in new in different ways. It is important to begin with hikes that we know our children will be able to handle to keep them from getting discouraged. If your kids go with you for regular walks, consider starting with a distance that is comparable to what they know and then build from there.
Tip: You can break up the day a bit by packing a picnic lunch and resting for awhile before starting a second, short hike (if everyone in your party is up for additional exercise).
4. Be prepared to teach
While adults can revel in the beauty of nature and the silence found while hiking, kids are more likely to have fun if they are learning while they hike. Keep in mind that new experiences are almost always excellent teaching moments, and hiking offers a variety of subjects to consider. Before your trip, grab a few books from the library that will teach your children about the animals they may see, what happens to our bodies during exercise or even how to navigate using our surroundings. These practical lessons will not only make hiking more interesting but will also prepare your little ones for a lifetime of safe, enjoyable time outdoors.
Tip: If you’d like to do a little research before your hike, many established trails have information centers or guides available on their website. Organizations like the Escondido Creek Conservancy and The Friends of Penasquitos Canyon are good examples.
5. Involve your kids in the planning process
When sitting down to select the park or parks you would like to see, involve your children in the planning. Kids love to feel included and it helps to build their excitement when they are intentionally involved in the plans. Allowing your children to research with you is not only fun and educational, but will ensure that the entire family enjoys each of the hiking trips you take together.
Be sure to take plenty of photos of your adventures while you are out, too! The memories you build for your children while spending time together are so valuable and they will love to look back on them as they grow.
Tip: You can even involve your kids in the research! Identify a few native plants, birds, and other wildlife before your hike. Have your kids keep an eye out for those things while on the trail.