Getting out for a nice family hike is a great way to spend some quality time together. It offers kids an opportunity for open-ended play and a chance to interact with and appreciate nature. My family ended up doing a lot of hiking together during 2020 and beyond. Our hikes through the woods offered a cathartic relief from the craziness surrounding our everyday lives back then. It did not matter what the weather was like, we tried to get out every day just to maintain our sanity, and it really helped us weather the stress of raising a young family as the world around us seemed to be falling apart. Even as life has returned to normal, we still enjoy getting outside to explore nature, however, it’s not always easy getting everyone on the same page. Sometimes one of our kids wants to go for a bike ride or they are tired and do not feel like walking. Now, if we knew our kids HATED hiking, we would not push it. Our kids love all sorts of outdoors activities, hiking included. We know that once they get their bodies moving, they have a ton of fun. Sometimes it’s just getting over that initial hurdle and then it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way (at least until the end of the hike when everyone’s tired and all heck breaks loose!). Here are a couple ideas about ways to keep things fun and help motivate kids to just get started. Obviously you may need to tailor these to your kids ages, but this has worked well for us with 3 kids under the age of 8.

I wasn’t kidding about getting outdoors in any weather. Snow hikes are fun as long as you have the right gear and make sure you don’t push it too far.

1.) Bribery – We all do it as parents. We sometimes resort to the old-fashioned trick of downright bribery. Candy. TV shows. Special treats. The key is finding something they really want that is not too far in the future for them to lose interest. It has to be tangible but at the same time reasonable. You’d be surprised what kids will do for a single Skittle or Starburst. You don’t have to go crazy, but I have literally packed a small pack of skittles or a few candies and that has been enough of a treat to get our kids moving.

2.) An exiting activity to do during the hike – As parents, a hike itself can be enough. But young kids need more. This can be as simple as a game you play along the way (I Spy, a word game, a rhyming game, a scavenger hunt), a race or challenge (see how fast you can get to that big rock!), or something physical that they can do (climb that hill and see what is on the other side!). This is also akin to distracting or redirecting your child’s attention when they start having a tantrum or doing something that you don’t want them to. In fact, I’m pretty sure there is a Bluey episode where Mum and Dad trick Bingo into going on a walk by continuing to distract her. So if Bluey says it’s OK, it’s gotta be right.

3.) A good midway point destination – Whether it is a playground at a campsite nearby or a creek/stream to play in, have something midway through your hike that is super fun. We are fortunate to live near some state parks with great hiking trails and playgrounds nearby. This is a really easy activity to do because it offers the kids something fun to look forward to during the hike.

4.) Snacks and water – Always carry plenty of snacks and water. Take breaks frequently and use them as opportunities to chat about what you are enjoying about the hike and any other thoughts that cross your mind.

5.) Turn back before your kids are tired – No matter what, your kids are going to get tired during the hike. You can plan it perfectly, but somehow that last half mile triggers something in your kids where they all want to be carried simultaneously. You can try to minimize this by knowing your kids’ limits and turning back before they start getting too tired. Trust me, as a parent you will not necessarily get to go on your favorite long hike, but future hikes with your kids depends on them not forming negative memories about always being tired on the hikes! Build up to longer hikes as your kids grow and mature, but just enjoy the process and you’ll be surprised at how quickly their endurance grows.

6.) Piggy back and shoulder rides – Inevitably the end of the hike finds me with one of my kids on my shoulders. I just look at it as a way to get a little more of a workout in (who needs a Rucksack when you have a 40lb kid on your shoulders). This goes back to the previous tip. Your kids will remember the hikes more fondly, thus increasing your chances that they will go on more hikes in the future. It is worth it, but if you think you’ll get tired, make a deal with them. Carry them to the top of the hill, then they need to give you a break. It won’t always work, but sometimes that short break gives your kid just enough juice to power through the rest of the hike.

7.) Good gear – The crux of all of this is having gear that you know and can trust. Dress your kids for the weather and activities they will be doing. Bring spares of socks and maybe even leggings/pants. An uncomfortable kid is an unhappy kid. Make sure you are prepared for the unexpected, and you will enjoy many more adventures with your family. Jason and I started this blog because we were always searching for authentic gear reviews, so we started doing our own. Take a look around and let us know what you think. Please let us know if there is more that you’d like to see. More kids outerwear reviews? Kids shoe/boot reviews? Something super niche?

I hope you liked this quick list or tips that our family has developed over time. Comment below if you have any other good tips that I missed!