Fall is my favorite season in the mountains, but spring is a close second. It’s time to shake off the winter hibernation and get our bodies moving again.
It feels so good for our bodies and our spirits to come back to life after huddling up in the house for months. Two of my favorite things to do come springtime is to sit by the lake and go for hikes with my family.
You should see my girls’ eyes light up when I mention a family hike! They literally jump up and down with joy. I love seeing their passion for nature grow and develop.
Over the past few years, we’ve learned quite a bit about how to prepare for a family hike. Here are some of my best tips. I hope they help!
Learn About Native Plants
I love to turn every experience into a learning experience. There is so much that can be learned through every day life! One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we get to turn so many things into learning experiences for our family.
Learning about native plants is such a great skill to acquire. Every time I learn something new about our local plant life, I get pretty excited. I recently learned that one of the “weeds” in my yard is totally edible. Pretty fun!
Depending upon where you live, you can pick up a guidebook about native plants in your area. You may also be able to find information on YouTube or take classes at a local nature center.
One of the benefits of learning about the native plants is that children often have more respect for nature when they understand it. My kids’ eyes light up when they learn something new about native plants.
Discuss the Local Animals and Insects
Just like learning about native plants you can discuss on your family hike, it’s important to know about the local wildlife. What types of snakes do you need to look out for? What kind of birds might you spot? What’s the name of that butterfly?
We like to observe the animals when we hike. It makes for great discussion, educational experiences and even art opportunities. If you homeschool, you can incorporate education about the local animals into your curriculum before you start hiking this spring and summer.
Like local plants, you can also find books to help you learn about local animals too. Or try YouTube or local nature education centers.
Teach Respect for Nature
This lesson is one of the most important ones you can bestow upon your children before you go for a hike. Teach them to respect and love nature.
What do I mean by that? I mean teaching them to pick up their trash. I mean teaching them not to go off trail because it can destroy fragile plant life and animal habitats.
In Girl Scouts growing up, I was taught to leave places better than I found them – at the very least to leave no trace. We need to teach our children to respect nature the same way so we can keep our planet healthy.
Wear a Good Hat and Sunglasses
The sun gets pretty powerful during the summer months. We like to make sure that everyone is protected from the sun.
Most often, because of the shade of the forest, we only need a hat and sunglasses to protect us. It keeps the sun off of our faces and out of our eyes, making our experience much better.
Carry a Comfortable Back Pack – for Everyone
It’s important to teach your children to carry their own things on a family hike. While it can be tempting to carry everything for them, it’s a good lesson in responsibility for them to carry their own things (they’ll learn to bring less!).
Make sure everyone has their own, comfortable backpack. Then make sure everyone only carries the necessities so you aren’t carrying a ton of weight.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
We don’t wear sunscreen unless we’ll be in direct sun for extended periods. Even if we’re only planning a short, shaded hike, I still pack the sunscreen.
Oftentimes, our short hikes turn into extended times in nature. There’s just something so wonderful about being out in nature. Once we get out there, we don’t want to go home! So I like to be prepared by packing the sunscreen, “just in case.”
Bring a Blanket
We have a few lightweight blankets that are great for carrying on hikes. I always pack a blanket for a hike because it’s nice to be able to find a big shade tree and sit down for a rest.
That way if we want to stop for a break, a snack or to have a little art or observation time, we have a nice, clean place to sit. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting in the dirt and grounding myself, but it’s nice to have a blanket sometimes too.
Pack Books or Drawing Supplies
Arts and crafts are huge in our home, and you’ll often find everyone tinkering around with one project or the other. One of us always has art supplies on us! Same goes for reading books.
I love to pack drawing supplies and a book when we go on hikes. When we stop to relax on our blanket, I like to read for a bit. The girls like to draw what they see out in nature. It’s soothing, relaxing and makes for great family fun!
Carry Enough Water
It’s really easy to get dehydrated when you’re out hiking, especially if you hike for longer than you planned. Make sure you carry enough water to keep your entire family hydrated.
That’s another reason I like everyone to bring their own pack. That way everyone has access to their own water, and you can carry more with you since it’s distributed among the family.
I also bring electrolyte powder in my pack so I don’t get dehydrated It’s super easy to add to my water, and it allows me to hike for longer periods of time, much more comfortably.
Always Carry Snacks
Last, but not least, is bringing healthy snacks along with us on our family hikes. We need the fuel to keep going strong up the trails!
We often pack fruit, especially this time of year when so much great produce is in season. However, when you’re hiking you also need a good source of protein to keep your body fueled, and we like to bring either beef jerky or some nuts as well.
Hiking as a family is always fun. Just remember to prepare before you head out to the trails!