One of the cheapest but most rewarding of family activities you can do with kids of any age is to hike. There is a series of great books on this – here is the one I use Monday Morning Memo: The Hiking Family – but you really just need a map of your area and perhaps an Internet connection to get a good idea of what places are the most kid friendly. A baby or toddler can ride in a special backpack or carrier like a Bjorn. Preschoolers can usually handle a one mile hike of elevation less than 500 feet. In fact, they can often handle the elevation better than we can! Older children can handle up to five miles, depending on their skill level and physical energy level.
- A few things to remember about the family hike:
1. Pack more water than you think you will need.
2. Pack more food than you think you will need. Use trail friendly snacks like granola, granola bars, nuts, and fruit.
3. Pack more clothing than you think you will need. You never know if the hike will take much longer than advertised.
4. Bring a map and a compass, just in case!
5. Make the hike interesting for young ones. Point out items of interest, clouds in cool shapes, and uniquely colored leaves or trees.
6. Sing! Hikes are a great opportunity to get some music time in.
7. Put one person in charge of following the trail and marking it, if you need to, and another on keeping an eye on the kids. That way, you both know your primary duty on the trail.
8. Take out what you bring in. That means you will need to bring some odor disguising bags for dirty diapers and such.
9. Take pictures! It is fun to help your younger children process the hike later if they can see where they were and what they did.
10. Use back-friendly devices! You will end up carrying someone, if not everyone, at a point in the hike. Don’t bring a purse or a backpack with poor shoulder supports. Bring the comfortable stuff! That goes for shoes and clothes too.