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My kids LOVE being outdoors and exploring. Where we lve, theere are plenty of places to hike, camp, fiash, boat, etc but we haven’t taken advantage of it in the past the way I wish we had. And that’s really my fault. But this year, I determined that we would enjoy as much of the outdoors as possible! When I asked my kids what they wanted to do, hiking was at the top of their list. I started thinking about the gear we would need and how to prepare for each hike, whether big or small, and came up with this list of hiking essentials for kids. Thankfully, the first item on the list, food, was easy and fun to put together with Glad sandwich and snack bags.
We also had a fun family night and made our own hiking packs to hold our snacks and hiking treasures. We had so much fun putting them together, especially because we used fabric spray paint. Here’s how we made them.
First, find a drawstring tote at your local craft or supply store. Also, be sure to grab some kind of fabric paint or acrylic paint. You will also need foam brushes to apply the paint.
Second, make a template. These can also be found in craft stores near the craft paint or you can make your own. I’m attaching the one I used at the bottom of the post. You can cut the letters and picture out by hand or use a craft machine like I did. Just remember, you’re using the negative space because it’s a template. Ours says “Take A Hike!” with a mountain next to it. I split the words and mountain into two pieces so it would be easier to paint.
Third, tape down your template on your tote! You can also use a glue spray if you want it to stay in place better.
Fourth, it’s time to paint! My kids had a blast doing this. Let them be creative!
Fifth, allow the paint to dry. The time frame depends entirely upon what type of paint you used.
Once the paint is dry, use a sharpie or black fabric pen to go over the lines and help them stand out better. Some of the paint went under the templates a little and the marker added definition.
And that’s it! Their hiking tote bags are ready to be used. But what to put inside? And what to take on the hike?
Are you ready for the list? Let’s hike to it! (See what I did there?)
Water, Water, Water
Water is definitely the number one thing you need to take, even if it’s just a short hike. It’s much easier than we think to become dehydrated, especially for smaller children. It would be horrible to start your hike and end it being sick from heat stroke.
If you don’t want to carry a big bottle of water, they get so awkward and heavy, I recommend using a hydration pack. They are lightweight backpacks that hold a “bladder” you fill with water. They have a straw attached to them so you and your family can easily grab a drink when needed. Many of them have extra room, too, so you can add your own snacks and treasures.
How many times do you get somewhere and the first thing your children say is, “Mommy, I’m hungry”? It happens to us all the time. And a hungry kid usually turns into a cranky kid. Or worse, they become whiny! We have left snacks at home in the past and it never ends well for us.
You would think we would have learned the first time around, but we finally figured it out. So what snacks should you bring? They need to be light, easy to package or already packaged, and something that will give you a boost of energy and really fill that belly. Also keep the length of your hike in mind. If it’s a longer hike, avoid things that will become mushy or gross after a time.
We love bringing fruit like sliced apples, bananas, and, depending on how long our hike is, strawberries. Crackers, carrots, string cheeese, granola bars, and trail mix are favorites too. If we need to package them up, we use Glad sandwich and snack bags. They have Disney characters on them and they make packaging up our snacks easy while we are out and about! We found them at our local Kroger store (find your store here) so it was easy to stock up on them (no harm in getting ready for Back to School in a couple of months too, right?).
Another fun treat for us are these Hidden Valley Ranch On-the-Go packs. They are prepackaged, easy to open and my kiddos love dipping their carrots and celery sticks in them. If they have these in their hiking packs, you can be sure I’m Mom of the Year. At least for that day.
You may be laughing right now that I’m even mentioning this. But I personally need to remind myself of this, lest I grab that old pair of running shoes in the closet with the hole in the bottom to go hiking in. Yes, it’s happened before. And I may or may not have ended up with a lot of rocks inside my shoes and a thorn in my toes…
Anyway, be sure the entire family is well equipped with shoes that are good for hiking. That means they have sturdy soles (without holes), breathe well, and are comfortable for walking long distances, including up and down hills. We haven’t invested in high quality shoes because the ones we have work well for our short hikes.
A Small First Aid Kit
This is another item that can easily be forgotten but comes in handy more then you realize. You can buy a small travel first aid kit that slips into your packs and doesn’t weigh them down. Be sure it has different sized bandages, including some gauze, as well as wound cleaning wipes and cream, tweezers, and an allergy cream.
Sunscreen and Protection
Don’t leave the house without lathering on the sunscreen! And be sure to pack some for along the way, as the sun tends to be more harsh the higher the elevation. Also, be sure to grab some lip balm with sunscreen in it. I’ve had blisters on my lips from sunburns before and they are horrible. Sunglasses protect your eyes from burning too (it happesn, especially to blue-eyed folk), and hat is a great way to protect your head. If it’s going to get cool while you’re out, be sure to snag a jacket that can tie around your waist when you’re not wearing it.
Depending on where you go, you will encounter some not so awesome little creatures. We have ticks in our mountains in addition to mosquitos, fire ants, and other bugs. We have used the little clip-on bug spray containers when we had little babies with us that couldn’t wear bug spray, and they worked well too.
And finally, have a fun game in mind!
No matter how cool your hike will be, you will most likely hear the phrase that prickles the hairs on any parent’s neck, “I’m bored….”! For us, it’s usually on the way back down the trail when they start feeling tired and “just want to be done”. It’s good to have an arsenal of games up your sleeve to draw upon when needed. You can create a fun hike scavenger hunt list to bring with you to use on your hike. My oldest son loves taking pictures so we let him use our phones or his own little kids’ camera to snap photos from his perspective. You can then use those pictures to create a story of your hike at home. Find some silly songs and sing them loud and proud! Or grab an outdoor plant or animal guide and learn about the things you see while you’re hiking. It’s always more fun to learn when you can both see and feel what you’re learning about.
The most important thing while hiking with your kids is to make it a good experience for everyone, including yourself. If you get your kids in on creating their own hiking packs with some of these essentials, they will feel that excitement too! And the packs are the perfect place to store hiking treasures to take home with them (our treasures are always cool rocks or sticks).
And be sure to never forget the water and snacks. Or the Glad bags for your snacks. You’ve been warned…
What things do you always bring on hikes with your family?