In this busy, crazy world we live in, it can be tough to find a weekend activity for the family that's cheap, simple, healthy, and fun. Our solution? We like to head outdoors and go for a hike. You don't need any special gear, technical equipment, or expensive energy drinks. And you certainly don't need to make a big trip to a national park. Here's all you'll need...
1. A Nearby Trail
Just about any trail will do, but the younger the child, the flatter and shorter the hike should be. We've found great trails all over... not just at the national, state, and regional parks, but also winding along a creek through our city, on a hill in the middle of San Francisco, or through the untended areas surrounding the local park. Our family even loves what we call "urban hikes"... taking a walk through the city.
2. A Sense of Adventure
Making our hikes into an adventure instead of a death march makes the outing more fun for the kids. The goal for any hike with kids should be to simply have fun... not to give mom or dad a nice, long hike. Bring along adventure toys: binoculars, bug boxes, a magnifying glass, or a kid camera.
3. A Relaxed Attitude
Hiking with kids is all about getting outdoors for some simple family fun. Sure, you can have a destination in mind. Just don't become upset if the family doesn't reach it. Some days, my kid runs ahead, all the way to our chosen destination. Other days, he would rather sit down in the middle of the trail and study insects. If that's the case, we hunker down with him and enjoy the wonders of nature.
4. Comfortable Clothing...and a Change
You don't need the latest fashionable hiking gear, but you do want to be comfortable. Nothing can ruin a nice outdoor adventure more quickly than a whiny, hot (or cold) kid. Dress in layers. Depending upon your climate, be prepared for hot, cold, or wet weather. Wear appropriate shoes (no sandals, flip-flops, or open toes). Lastly, and this may seem obvious, but your child will probably get dirty. Wear clothing that can get scrubbed up with dirt, mud, or water. Leave clean, dry clothes in the car to change into after the hike.
5. Lots of Yummy Snacks and Water
Kids can run out of energy quicker than you'd think. Prevent low-energy meltdowns by bringing along lots of fun, healthy snacks. Easy to pack foods include string cheese, nut mix, fresh fruit, fruit ropes, nut butter sandwiches, and cheese and crackers. We don't eat a lot of sweets in our household, but we do bring along some treats for hikes. Chocolate is always a winner. Don't forget lots of water!
6. A Small First-Aid Kit
Just in case, for the short outings you'll be doing with kids, include band aides/bandages, antiseptic towelettes, antibiotic ointment, moleskin, forceps or tweezers, and pain relievers. Also, make a point to know what the "notable" plants are in your region. Our son has been able to identify poison oak since he was two. If there are ticks or other biting insects in your area, consider using an appropriate bug spray on your clothing and exposed areas. (By the way, the easiest way to avoid ticks and poison oak is to simply stay on the trail.)
Now head outdoors for some inexpensive family fun!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.