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hiking

hiking

As avid hikers, we often hear a lot of parents speak of how much their lives outdoors are going to have to change once their children begin to want to walk on their own, and are no longer able to be carried in a pack.

Hiking with children under the age of 12 can seem like a daunting task, but with some creative thought and planning, it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine.

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Children are naturally curious beings, and hiking with them can be the ultimate experience in discovery. The natural world is a playground with an abundant amount of possibilities for children to seek out, and part of the experience of hiking with them should include the time to do just that. If hiking was a part of your life before you had kiddos, the one thing to remember is that the experience will never look the same as when walking with adults or by yourself. Children may walk too fast, too slow, or off the trail altogether. Some hikes may go just the way you envisioned them, while others may look so different, you cannot  even remember what you originally set out to do.

The key for many parents is to be prepared with as much as they can to ensure that any issues that may arise are easy to take care of.

What To Pack

Sunscreen

Sun hats

Water bottles

Compass

Nature journals

Colored pencils or pens

Trail maps

Trail snacks (small bites of energy can do wonders to keep children going)

A first aid kit that includes travel size containers of antihistamines and ibuprofen, bandaids, antibacterial wipes, and ointment

Tweezers (trust us, just throw them in there!)

A hiking/explorers pouch (have your children wear this on their belts)

Magnifying glass

Plastic bags for collecting goodies that you might not want to throw in a backpack

Extra clothes

Bug spray

Once you have what you need packed, it is time to get on the trail and start exploring. Encouraging children to seek out answers to what they see, to follow a trail of an animal, or to stop and examine anything from a pine cone to a scat track is the perfect way to ensure that they will want to hike with you each and every time.

Letting children keep a nature/hiking journal is also the perfect way to use your time hiking for teachable moments. Taking time to sketch, write, eat, listen, and just simply be in nature are natural energy stops that will let children rest, encourage them to take in what is around them, and give them the space and time that they need to process what they see. As kids get older, using a digital camera can also be a very neat way to encourage time outdoors.

Hiking in a group, and with other kids, can also be a fantastic way to get your children onto the trail. It makes for a wonderful playdate, there is nothing to clean up afterwards, and everyone goes home tired and happy.

Of course, checking out the trails ahead of time, keeping the hike as simple as possible as children are just starting out, and finding a trail with a ton of neat stuff for children to explore makes for a good day as well. Water play is by far what most kids love about hiking, so if there is a lake, stream, river or falls somewhere accesssible and safe, that is a pretty sure bet.

Above all else, have fun. Kids make wonderful hiking companions, and if they feel as though this is special time with their family, and a great moment to get outdoors and explore, they will be willing participants. Summer is a wonderful season to explore the joys of hiking, and to help kids learn to love being on the trail.

Hiking Snacks

As a mother of three boys who love to hit the trail, I have learned that if I only ever had one thing to bring with us when we hike, it would be food. My children are always hungry, but more importantly their ability to enjoy a long hike is dependent on their nourishment. High protein and yummy snacks are the cornerstone of our active lives, and a major reason that we are able to enjoy the outdoors with our kiddos the way that we do.

The following are two snacks that are staples in our kitchen. They are quick and easy, and are a proven way of nourishing us through just about any trail we seem to take.

Strawberry Almond Energy Bites

Every hike requires those small bites of energy to keep us going. These protein bites are the perfect easy treat for the entire family to enjoy, and can easily be made ahead and stored in the fridge.

1/2 cup almonds

6 dates

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 sunflower seeds

2 T almond butter

1 T coconut oil

1/4 cup dried strawberries – diced

Process the almonds in a food processor until chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients through the almond butter, and process until finely combined. Add the diced dried strawberries, and process only until incorporated.

Roll into balls and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes 8

Frozen Banana Protein Smoothies To Go

This is a family favorite that is never out of stock. We use BPA-free freezer jam jars to hold the smoothie, and simply pop them in our backpacks on the way out the door for a hike. By the time mid-day comes and we are ready for a cool down, they make the perfect soft frozen treat.

2 bananas (we freeze our bananas to keep for smoothies, but frozen or not are fine)

3 cups milk (we use almond)

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1 tbsp honey

1/3 cup dates (pits removed)

1 tbsp ground chia

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/4 cup raw almond butter

Add all ingredients into a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix, and process until smooth and creamy. Pour into freezable containers, and allow to set over night. In the morning, simply throw into a lunchbox or hiking pack, and enjoy whenever you need a cold break.

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