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Hiking is a fun outdoor activity for the whole family.

How to Hike with Kids – and Make It Fun

Hiking is on the rise as a popular family activity now that we’re all spending so much time outdoors. But introducing kids to hiking is not without its pitfalls – one exhausted march on sore feet and they may not want to go again.

Here, how to introduce kids to hiking and ensure they’ll love it as much as you do.

Bring Tons of Snacks

Hungry kids are cranky kids, so make sure you have plenty of trail snacks to keep everyone fueled and raring to go. Go with classics like PB&Js or get creative with hummus and crackers to dip. Add plenty of fresh fruit and trail mix or energy bars and they should be set for the day. It’s okay to add an indulgence like chips or cookies, too – after all, you’ll be hiking off the calories! A good rule of thumb: Think about how much everyone will eat, then add at least a portion each. Hiking makes you hungry!

Carry at Least One Water Bottle Per Person

It’s tempting to want to share and cut down on weight, but staying hydrated is one of the basic rules of hiking. Have older kids carry their own bottles, so they can drink when they feel like it. Camelbak type water bags with sippy tubes work well for kids as well as adults. If you’re hiking in heat, in the mountains, or going more than a few miles, the rule is two water bottles per person.

Prioritize Proper Footwear

If there’s one thing that will hijack any family hike, it’s a blister. Blisters happen when shoes or socks (or both) are rubbing against the skin. They are most common on the backs of the heels, from slippage, or on the sides and tops of the feet from too-narrow shoes. Damp or sweaty socks are also common culprits where blisters are concerned. Before you set out, make sure everyone has comfortable shoes and moisture-wicking socks. If you’ve just purchased new shoes, test them out on a short walk to make sure they fit before using them on a hike.

Avoid Sunburn

Slather everyone with sunscreen before you hit the trail, and carry more to re-apply. Hats and lightweight long-sleeve shirts provide more protection than sunscreen and are strongly recommended on long hikes.

Carry a First-Aid Kit

Those previously mentioned blisters will require band-aids, and there are other hazards to be aware of, like bee stings, cuts, or an altitude headache. A simple portable first-aid kid doesn’t take up much room and will make all the difference when you encounter the unexpected injury.

Focus on Fun, Not Distance

Kids are curious creatures, and they will be entranced by bugs, rocks, and other sights along the way. Meanwhile, that viewpoint you’re so eager to get to? They don’t care about that at all. Take the long view, remembering that your goal is for your kids to develop a lifelong love of the outdoors. So if you need to stop ten times along the way or turn back before the end, that’s okay – they’re much more likely to want to go again when they have great memories of a short hike rather than bad memories of an exhausting one.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.