Your ideal: a day spent hiking, reaching a view your kids will never forget and bonding in nature (while getting a nice little work out in). The reality: kids whose legs/feet/arms/nose hurt, constant calls of “I’m thirsty” ––and that’s if you can get the whole gang actually out the door. But don’t worry, we’ve all been there. That’s why we’ve come up with a few tips to get less-than-enthusiastic hikers to hit the trails (or the sidewalk) in stride. Read on to help make it a day you’ll never forget, for all the right reasons!

photo: Ben_Kirkcx via pixabay

1. Call It Macaroni

You don’t have to go on an epic hike up to the top of Half Dome to get that “hikey” feeling. For kids, especially little ones, a walk in the park or even around the neighborhood can be a hike enough. But if your kids groan at the mention of hike, try just calling it something else: a walk, Adventure Steps, or Explorer’s Session. Once you create a less-challenging habit, you can move up to something more strenuous.

2. Walk Like an Egyptian (or a Princess or a Superhero)

Kids love pretend play and there’s no reason a hike has to be any different. Unless the costume poses a major hazard, let the kids dress however they want. Get out capes, princess dresses, robo-arms: whatever it takes to get them psyched. Plus then you can call it a Superhero Stride or Princess Prance (see above).

photo: cherryholt via pixabay

3. Pal Around

Let the kids each bring along a favorite “friend” from their stuffed animal, doll or action figure collection. While you don’t want it to be too big, letting them tote along a companion can add to the fun-factor. Plus be sure and photograph the companions along the way: Teddy at the base of a tree; Elsa hiding with the fairies, etc.

4. Make It a Playdate

Instead of, or in addition to, faux friends, see if you can invite a couple of their besties along. It’s like a playdate, but you get to move, be outside and have an adventure they’ll beg to repeat.

photo: Pexels via pixabay

5. Make It a Hunt

Two words: scavenger hunt. You can do a nature hunt, or a nature photography walk: check out the printable we’ve created here for a checklist of “natural” items to snap a photo of. Or go for a bird watching checklist, like this one. For more tips on turning your walks into scavenger hunts, click here.

6. Document It

Along the way, be sure and let the kids have a chance to take some photos. Toting along a few notepads and letting the kids take a break for a snack and some observations along the way will give them a much-need break and a treasure to remember late on.

7. Dress to Carry

With younger kids, especially, be sure you are dressed to carry them a little ways if you have to. Don’t expect a 3-year-old to keep up with an older 6-year-old sibling. Having a baby pack or backpack is standard for families with littles but if you’re going for a more epic distance, check out the Piggyback Rider, a carrier designed for parents to give older kids a ride without the aching back or shoulders that come along with it.

photo:  Brad Kleinkirchheim via flickr

8. Play Games

Pit stops don’t have to be just for bathroom breaks or snacks. Take a spontaneous play break: we promise your kids will love it. Check out this list of 15 ad-hoc ideas for outdoor play.

9. Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!

Having the right snacks can make all the difference: you want a balance of healthy and energy-sustaining and treats they’ll look forward to. Get the best of both worlds with these energizing bites that are tasty enough to meet the criteria. Get the kids even more excited by having them help make the food the night before. Letting each child pick one special food for the walk can help too! (We’re not above bribery.)

10. Get Creative

Save a few twigs or leaves gathered along your way and use them to create something beautiful later that day or the next day, or even on the hike itself! You can make a crown of leaves or simple creatures, or weave sticks together to form a lovely work of art for your wall. Find out how, here.

Got any tips to add to our list? Sound off in the comments below!

— Amber Guetebier