Explore Nature. Have Fun. Take the Family on a Hike.

family hiking

Summer is here and you’re wondering what to do with the kids this weekend? Why not take them on a family hike? It’s a great opportunity to teach them about nature and the environment while enjoying some quality time together. Just a little preparation, imagination, and common sense is all it takes. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Think like a Boy Scout.

Boys Scouts do a lot of hiking and their motto is, “Be Prepared.”

In the case of a family hike, that means putting safety first. Make sure you tell people that you’re taking your family into the woods and what woods you’re going into. Pack your cell phone in a waterproof container along with a fully charged power bank or two. Weak signals on many trails can quickly drain your battery.

Also, give each child their own knapsack. Ideally one with a bladder and straw, so they don’t have to stop and fill a cup every time they get thirsty. The knapsack is also a good place to keep their extra clothes and, most important, a whistle. Tell your children that if they don’t see mom or dad, they should stay put and blow the whistle three times. (Children don’t always know they’re lost; telling them “don’t see mom or dad” gives them concrete directions they can understand.)

You also want to pack trail maps (including extras in a waterproof container), sunscreen, flashlight, first aid kit, and a Swiss army knife or other multipurpose tool. A GPS or compass is a must. As is extra food, water and clothing.

Clothes make the hike.

For a hike, it’s best to avoid camouflage outfits and dress kids in bright, colorful clothes. Pack their knapsacks with a rain jacket, extra clothes, and warm layers. Sneakers are fine for flat and dry trails, but for muddy or hilly terrain, it’s important to have hiking boots for traction and ankle support!

Eat, drink, and stay healthy.

On a car trip, kids will complain that they’re hungry or thirsty. On a hike, they really are. Pack a good lunch and plenty of snacks, all in waterproof containers. Bring lots of zip lock bags filled with simple munchies like cereals, granola bars, graham crackers, fruit snacks and, yes, candy. Even the most spirited kid may need a burst of energy on a hike. Sweets can also be a good bribe when you need some cooperation.

For fluids, you want to stay away from carbonated or caffeinated drinks. Water is your best bet. Bring lots of it, at least twice as much as you think you’ll need. And don’t forget to include a thermos of sangria or hard lemonade. Adults are allowed to enjoy themselves on hikes, too.

Choose a kid-friendly trail

Let common sense be your trail guide. Look first at the beginner’s trails on the park maps. They’re usually relatively short, flat, and well-marked. Sometimes they also go in a loop, so you don’t have to cover the same ground twice.

Next look for a trail with a destination. Maybe a waterfall, a rock formation, or lake. It gives kids something to look forward to. Also, try to find a trail with some landmarks along the way. More places to stop and explore means fewer times to answer, “Are we there yet?”

Remember, it’s their hike.

You may want to get to the clearing with the picnic area, but your kids want to get on their hands and knees. You never know what kind of rock or plant they’re going to want to touch and explore. As long as the plant isn’t poison ivy, let them. A hike is more about the journey than the destination and your kids will have a lot more fun if you let them set the pace.

To keep things going, tell stories or play games. Eye Spy is a great game for hiking. Who sees a fallen tree? A half-fallen tree? A giant mushroom? Scavenger hunts can also be fun. What kid doesn’t want to be on the lookout something wet and smelly? The list goes on. There’s plenty of inspiration for games, stories and experiences when you’re hiking in the woods.

Above all. Be safe and have fun.

Don’t overexert your kids during the hike. Take breaks and give them a snack if needed. Consider using a child carrier for younger children. Remember to check for ticks after the hike, especially if you live in the Northeast. If you find a tick, don’t worry! Contact your doctor or Teladoc if you’re an Alliance Direct Benefits member.

Alliance Direct Benefits is committed to helping you and your family enjoy a healthy, safe and fun summer. Same goes for fall, winter and spring. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M-F, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).