Hiking with kids can be a blast – here are some of the easy tips we’ve learned over the years!
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Sargento®. The opinions and text are all mine.
If you’re thinking about getting into hiking with kids, I applaud you! We do a lot of hiking with kids (I have five outdoorsy children!) – It’s one of our favorite things to do as a family and brings us so much joy. There’s nothing better than a fun adventure!
Hiking with Kids
What to Bring When Hiking with Kids
Sargento® Snacks for Hiking
From traditional favorites like Sargento String & Stick Cheese to great new cheese snacks like Sargento Sunrise Balanced Breaks, and Sargento Balanced Breaks, Sargento offers a great variety of snacks for all occasions! They’re perfect for hiking because Sargento cheese snacks are a nutritious, natural source of protein that taste great! I picked mine up in the dairy section of my local Harris Teeter!
If we go on a mid-morning hike, I love packing Sunrise Balanced Breaks. Sargento String & Stick is great for a snack with a mid-day lunch. Additionally, Balanced Breaks are great with lunch or as an afternoon snack. Sargento Sweet Balanced Breaks are great in the evening.
NOTE: From 5/29/19 – 6/25/19 you can save $0.75 on Sargento Snacks at your local Harris Teeter!
Even for short hikes, we like to bring a light backpack so we’re not filling our hands with jackets, water bottles, and whatever else the kids snuck along.
It’s always a good idea to carry some band-aids and antiseptic. Tweezers too, as someone always manages to get a splinter! We have a small first aid kit that I picked up at a local pharmacy, but they’re easy to put together on your own as well.
If you bring nothing else, please bring water. Even on short hikes, it is guaranteed that your child will be desperately thirsty the very moment your foot hits the trail. And there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to hike with a whining kiddo. Also, hydration is important.
Snacks, snacks, snacks! This is a close second behind water, because well-paced snacking can make your hike immensely more enjoyable for you and the kids. We like to pack a little salty, a little sweet, and always something with protein. Sargento always has lots of great options available at our market – we grabbed the ones pictured at Harris Teeter!
This can mean a lot of things, but at the very least make sure you’ve got bug spray and sunscreen!
Other ideas are umbrellas, ponchos (umbrellas are better for sun protection, but ponchos are great if you think it may rain), hats, gloves, and extra socks.
Did it even happen if you don’t take pictures?! While not strictly necessary, it is fun to document your adventures. Thankfully these days it’s unlikely that you’ll be without a camera if you carry your phone.
If you’re doing anything more daring than a local playground/park hike, please bring a phone that is map/GPS equipped. It is remarkably easy to step off the path for a moment and get turned around.
I also always suggest loading the map into your phone before beginning the hike in the event cell service doesn’t reach the area you are hiking in.
This one is for younger kids, but not as young as you might think! If you have a kid (or kids!) under 6, I strongly suggest bringing a back carrier in case they want to ride for a bit or take a nap while you walk.
What to Wear When Hiking with Kids
Dress in Appropriate Gear
Take a look at the weather and terrain where you’ll be and make sure to dress appropriately for your hike. I always recommend close toed shoes (preferably sneakers or hiking boots) regardless of the weather (you can pack flip flops if you want them for wading in water).
Don’t wear shorts if you’re going to be pushing your way through heavy brush, this is a good way to get scratched up by foliage or bitten by woodsy residents.
Bring or Wear Layers
This is especially important if you’re doing a cold weather hike, but even in on our hottest Florida hikes, we make sure to bring some light layers for protection from the sun and to warm up after jumping in the water.
Remember that hiking is exercise, so even if you start out cold you’ll likely warm up quickly and want to peel off a layer or two.
Where to Go When Hiking with Kids
Start Out Easy
If you’ve never been hiking as a family before or if your children are very young and you want to see how they do, start with nature trails at local parks. Many parks have “wooded” nature trails with flat (and sometimes even paved or board-walked) paths.
Maybe choose somewhere that you know has picnic tables you can “hike” to – when you get there, make a mini cheeseboard with the Sargento snacks you packed!
This is a great way to introduce hiking without any big commitment. Begin with a 15 or 20 minute walk along the trails and slowly increase as you feel the kids are ready.
Most areas have local websites that can recommend great places to hike, along with information about the terrain, parking, wildlife, etc. Try googling where you live (state, county, and/or town) along with “hiking” and you should be able to find some great resources.
Hiking is a fun way to discover a different side of where you live and to learn about local flora and fauna while getting fresh air and exercise!
Find New Places
Try going a little further outside of your comfort zone – whether it be the next county over, or a hike that looks harder than your last one. We love to do day trips to new areas and even try to get at least one or two hikes in while we’re on vacation.
When to Go Hiking with Kids
Hiking is a wonderful way to unwind from a day of sitting behind a school desk. Stop at the market for some Sargento snacks, then go for a quick local hike when the kids get home, before dinner (or after if it’s near summer time and light out you can go later in the evening!).
On the Weekends
Take a longer hike on the weekends and learn more about where you live and what the area was like before it was developed. I bet you’ll be surprised at how many hidden hiking gems you can find even in urban areas!
What a cool way to explore new areas. While we love doing downtown tours, and learning the history of a place when we visit, it’s also so great to get into the woods and see how it differs from where we live!
What to Do While You’re Hiking with Kids
Look for Flora and Fauna
First thing’s first – keep your eyes wide and look around for flora (plants) and fauna (animals)! If you don’t know what you’re seeing, try looking them up on the phone, or take a picture so you can look it up later when you’re back home.
My kids love to make up stories about why we’re in the woods, where we’re going, what’s lurking around the next bend, and how we will survive our heroic expedition. It’s fun to let the kids (and adults!) take turns adding to the story.
You know those games you play on long road trips, like Eye Spy, Going on a Picnic, and 20 Questions? Well these are all great games to play on hikes too! If you keep the kids engaged, it’s more like they’ll enjoy themselves, and in turn you will too.
This will depend where you’re hiking and whether you’re among other hikers (it’s typically considered bad form to be loud when hiking as it scares away wildlife and can be considered disrupting to others).
If you find yourself in a place where it’s okay to be loud though, this is a fantastic time to teach kids fun songs from your own youth, or teach them how to sing in rounds!
Have a Picnic
Picnicking is one of my very, very favorite parts of hiking. On a long hike we typically stop for a few snack breaks and a meal break. Make sure you’ve packed items that don’t require utensils and won’t make a sticky mess!
For a morning hike try Sargento Sunrise Balanced Breaks– Monterey Jack Natural Cheese, Walnut Oat Granola with Dark Chocolate and Golden Raisins, at lunch time make sure to include Sargento Natural String Cheese and Sargento Colby Jack Stick Cheese, and for an afternoon hike grab some Sargento Balanced Breaks – Natural White Cheddar Cheese, Sea-Salted Roasted Almonds, and Dried Cranberries and Sargento Sweet Balanced Breaks – Monterey Jack Natural Cheese, Dried Cranberries, Dark Chocolate Chunks, and Banana Chips!
Take all the selfies! Take pictures of your kids exploring! Take pictures of everyone together! Encourage your kids to take pictures of things they haven’t seen before, and things they can look up and learn about when they get home!
What to Remember When Hiking with Kids
Kids have shorter legs than us! Remember that they’re doing a lot more work to cover the same ground. Be patient and keep the pace reasonable for them.
There is so much to see when hiking, it’s likely the kids will want to stop eleventy-billion times. This is okay! Let them be curious and answer as many questions as you can – then look up what you don’t know when you get home.
Bribery Can Be Good
I will shamelessly coax my kids a little farther with the promise of snacks or a short television show when we get home. I’ve even paid my kids cash to be quiet before. You just have to find their currency (hint: it’s usually food).
We want the kids to associate hiking with good feelings, and while I don’t suggest offering a shopping spree in exchange for a hike, maybe the promise of their favorite cheese sticks will help make everyone happy? (My kids’ favorite is the Sargento Colby Jack Stick Cheese!)
What to Do After Hiking with Kids
Do a Tick Check
It’s always a good idea to do a quick tick check immediately after the hike, before piling back into the car and then another more thorough one at home before bath or shower.
Have More Snacks
My kids always know that if they’re well behaved we will hand out another round of snacks when we get back to the car. Try the Sargento Sunrise Balanced Breaks with Monterey Jack Natural Cheese, Walnut Oat Granola with Dark Chocolate and Golden Raisins (this one is mommy’s favorite!).
Recap Your Adventures
We like to go around the car and ask everyone what the best thing about their hike was – it’s always fun to hear what they come up with and often it’s not what you’d expect!
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