Hiking with kids: 10 tips for saving your sanity

Some of you might remember that I have written a similar blog post before. But since time has passed, the children have grown a bit, and now we have to face little different challenges. Thinking about what to pack and when to go? Phew, a harmless and mastered routine. We have already moved forward to a higher level. I recently complained on this Facebook how our pre-pubescent son recently claimed during the hike that the trip was “dumb and stupid” 😀 Because, you know, our hiking trips are not always trouble-free, sunlit, with unicorns grazing at the end of the rainbow. But in fact, we’re pretty far from that. We have three children, aged 4, 7 and 10 years. So how to handle hiking with kids and save your sanity? Yours and theirs? In this post, I will try to give you some tips on how to do it!

WARNING: I am not a child psychologist, so do not expect any erudite advice based on serious research. What may work for us may not work for others 😉

1. Sharing your route plan is half the success

“You’ll see when we get there!”. Nope, forget about it. Children like surprises, but so much for Christmas. If you want to eliminate some initial resistance, make it clear where you are going and what awaits you there. Including how long it will take to get there by car, train or cable car… simply all the information their heads can handle.

The promise of ice cream after the hike work wonders with us.

2. Choose themed trails

Themed trails are great for motivating your “hikers in training”. You know from my blog that there are plenty of short, yet beautiful hikes tailored for kids in Switzerland, with many activities to do along the way. My post on 10 themed routes in the Bern region can help you with choosing the route.

3. Hike downhill

I know, once your kids have to find out that the road leads uphill, but for a start, it is definitely worth choosing a route that leads at least a little downhill. We have been able to choose routes that include a ride up the cable car up (as an experience) and a hike back down (for example, on a recent trip to Zermatt, Emmental or Lenk).

4. Follow your route on a paper map or mobile app

As you already know about me, I am a bit old-fashioned, so every time we get somewhere, I immediately pick a map of the place from the stands, and give each one one map (so they don’t argue, of course). However, because it happened several times that we were not completely sure of the route, after all, my husband and I downloaded a mobile application (we use WanderApp), which has proved us several times. And kids also enjoy watching how much we’ve managed to hike and how the blue dot in the virtual map has moved a bit (despite the fact that younger kids can feel the pride of completing the hike).

5. To bribe or not to bribe?

For small kids, a bit of bribing with gummi bears may work – you can reward reaching each mark along the way (let’s say a tree, a signpost etc.) with little sweets but the bigger kids then unnecessarily focus on getting sweets rather than enjoying, what’s on the way. As I mentioned, it is better to promise some reward when you reach your destination.

6. Taking friends along

I have to say that at first, I was not a fan of hiking with other kids. I wanted to avoid “fighting” different pace and condition of all participants, etc. And I also wanted to avoid others witnessing possible hysterical outbreaks and bouts of our offsprings.

But as our friends and family come to visit us (mostly with kids of age like ours) and we go hiking with them, it is quite the opposite. The kids usually get together and run forward. So having friends along can help a lot.

7. Geocaching and other games

I admit that we are not geocachers. But we were totally surprised at how interesting this activity for our boys was when we set out on a hike in Eriz with friends who are fans of cache hunting. Since then, boys have been carrying in there backpacks little something for the cache box (if it was necessary).

8. Taking walking sticks

You don’t necessarily have to own expensive trekking sticks, I think any stick that kids can find along the way will do. Because a stick is just a stick. It is better to hike uphill and downhill with them, it is easy to poke in the ground and in puddles with it, it can be played like a sword, anything which makes it fun instead of a boring hike.

9. Don’t talk to them when they don’t want to talk

Quite surprisingly, it is the same with children as adults. Just when we are not in the mood, we also don’t like talking to anyone. All the more so when it comes to an almost teenager who would rather do a million other things than admire the beauty of alpine panoramas with you. Leave him alone, it will pass him/her in a moment (tried!).

10. Adjust your pace, route, and expectations

Except in exceptional cases (it gets dark, there is a risk that you will miss the last lift) try not to push the children to adjust the pace to yours. I know it is sometimes better said than done. With younger kids, have a baby-carrier ready for emergency use. Your offspring may not know that you have it with you in your backpack (they would have definitely wanted to be carried from the first kilometer), but you will surely know when it is necessary to use it.

I hope that you have read the above points with a stay on top of things because you are parents who use common sense and know what is best for their kids 🙂

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A hike to Blueme lookout tower above Lake Thun
Our visit to Swiss Children’s Museum

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