Our family really enjoys hiking. We have found it to be healthy, educational, stress relieving, and lots of fun. We have been truly blessed that in addition to our family hikes we have a great group of homeschooling friends that hike with us twice a month. We choose different trails from a rotation of about ten local trails for a hike and whomever is available meets up. Sometimes we just walk and the children play and talk, sometimes we do scavenger hunts, bark rubbings, or other activities, and recently we have begun adding in a few ranger guided hikes at local state parks.
I want my children to enjoy and appreciate nature and I have found that the more time we spend in nature the more they enjoy it. I work to balance times where we are actively learning and engaged in an activity with times where they are just playing and enjoying nature. The physical activity tends to increase on those hikes where we just let them play. In places where it is appropriate (some trails and parks have rules about staying on the trail and we obey those), they often find logs to balance and walk on, creeks to splash in, rocks to ‘climb’ and even one log that works like a giant see-saw. They think they are just having fun (which is important) but they are also working those gross motor skills. If you are interested in the research into the importance of time in nature, I recommend Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv.
When we want to do a more learning centered hike we have a variety of options to choose from. Sometimes we simply take one of our field guides and choose to try to identify as many items as we can, picking from flowers, trees, mammals, insects, etc. Other times, they bring their nature journals and simply choose to draw and write about something they find interesting. Our science studies from Apologia often have ideas for nature study or projects we can do as well. We may take a guided hike where the ranger or other expert discusses specific aspects of what we are seeing on the trail. We have taken pencils and paper and done bark rubbings for tree identification or collected leaves to preserve in their nature journals.
I have included a simple fall printable scavenger hunt, including things to collect (please remember to only collect on trails that allow for leaf collection, etc), do, and find in our free resource library. This is a great way to get started using your hikes as a nature study. Sign up for access to all of our free resources at the link at the bottom of the post.
There are a few common reasons that people are concerned about hiking that I’d like to address. One of the most common that I hear is that people don’t feel that they are physically fit enough to hike. However, barring physical conditions or problems that you may need to speak to your doctor about most people can hike. You may need to start out on easier trails and shorter distances. You can take a quarter mile loop on an even gravel trail and work your way up to longer trails or more difficult terrain.
Another common one is a question about how well small children will do on hikes. I have found that there are several solutions to this depending on the child and the trail and that most small children get a lot from the experience of hiking. For babies, baby wearing is a great option and how I normally choose to hike with little ones. A good wrap or soft structured carrier like an Ergo can allow mom and baby a safe and comfortable hike. Some folks prefer a stroller and on some trails this is a great way to hike. You do have to make sure that the trail is stroller friendly but there are many trails that utilize gravel or boardwalks that can be great options for strollers. If the child is walking and moving but still very young you can wither choose shorter hikes or a combination of them walking and then when they get tired using a carrier or stroller.
As a part of our hiking and traveling the area, our group has found another wonderful benefit to hiking: cupcakes! I know you are probably thinking how do cupcakes relate to hiking? We enjoy the exercise and time outside and then near several of our trails we have found wonderful, delicious bakeries to get fun sweet treats after our hike and continue the conversations and good times. If you are local or semi-local two of our favorite stops are Rachel K’s Bakery in Washington, NC and HappyCakes in Morehead City, NC. We enjoy our trips as times of nature study, exercise, and fellowship!
I hope that you are inspired to go outside, hike, and enjoy nature. If you are looking for trails in your area try your local government site for municipal and county parks, your state parks (these are great for guided group hikes and extra activities) or our National Park Service. Whether you go with just your family or a group of friends there is much to learn and great deal of fun waiting on the trail. What do you like most about hiking or what concerns do you have about getting started? Share in the comments.
Educational Tools for Your Hiking Packs
- Wild Edible Food Cards
- Peterson’s First Guides
- Journal or Sketch pad
- Colored Pencils
- Magnifying Glass
Emergency Supplies for Your Hiking Packs
What you would want to take will obviously depend on where you are and what type of hike you are taking. You won’t need the same things for a .5 mile loop on a paved trail that you would for a 10 mile hike in new territory. I do recommend always taking water, insect repellent (or applying before you leave) and a small first aid kit with an emergency blanket.
- Water Bottles (We like this set because it is colored coded by person and the silicone sleeves protect the bottle from accidental breakage.)
- Fire Starter or matches (Obviously only for children who are responsible and trained in the use of these items).
- Emergency Blanket
- Cliff bars (or other easy to transport food)
- First Aid Kit or for more advanced First Aid
- Insect Repellent
When you sign up for our free resource library you will get a link and password to the library, we are adding to the library each month with new items. You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter email to keep you up to date on what we have going on.
This post may contain affiliate or referral links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.
Friday’s Deals and Freebies
Apologia is running a free shipping special and other sales throughout the month.
Give Your Child The World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time (On sale for $2.99 at time of posting, Amazon can change prices at any time.)
If you are looking for some maps to help extend your geography check out these from Knowledge Quest Map Trek (including a free sampler).
Free gratitude journal: https://writeshop.com/free-gift/ref/dawnpeluso/
Homeschool Buyers Co-Op is offering a great deal on Discovery Education Streaming right now. 60% off and bonus Smart Points redeemable for other products. We have used this in the past and enjoyed it.
Two Free Audio Books with an Audible Trial and if you aren’t sure what to start with I’d suggest checking out the Green Ember or The Penderwicks for good family choices.
Check out this fun idea for using Salt Trays for Writing Practice: https://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/salt-trays/…
These are from All About Learning who created the Awesome spelling program that was a game changer for us, All About Spelling (https://www.allaboutlearningpress.net/go.php?id=1468)
$10 Sign-Up Bonus for Ibotta and they are doing some major savings and rebates starting today. Great way to save money on the things you are already buying.
$40 off your first HelloFresh Box