There are lots of gorgeous, woodsy hiking trails around where we live, and hiking is a big weekend activity for my family. My husband and I love the woods around Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, and we've taken the kids on trails since before they could walk: carriers were a great help when doing that!
So what's so great about going for a hike in the woods with your kids? Well, here are some of the reasons I love it:
- It gets the whole family moving - Walking/hiking is great exercise for both adults and kids. It's also pretty easy on the body while getting all of us moving together. Hiking is cheap too: it doesn't require special equipment (good shoes help), there are no fees to pay, plus it's fun. Hard to beat!
- It combats stress and boredom - My kids are usually a lot more relaxed, less whiny, calmer and happier when we're outdoors. (So am I come to think of it...) And going on a hike usually seems to get them in a good mood, even if they've just been climbing the walls at home.
- It really puts you in touch with nature - Hiking a trail in the woods allows you to experience nature up close and personal with all your senses: smelling the trees and the earth, seeing the light filtered through the leaves and branches, touching the slippery roots as you climb up a hill, listening to the sound of running water in a stream, slip-sliding in the mud...
- It's great family bonding time - When we're on a hike we walk and talk together about anything and everything that comes to mind (I always find it easier to talk while walking, for some reason). We look at slugs, mushrooms, moss, rocks, trees, and tracks in the mud together. We help each other overcome obstacles like streams, muddy patches, and steep hills. It all adds up to some great together-time.
- It teaches kids to stick with it- Hiking trails aren't always easy. There can be rough patches, there can be slips and falls, scratched hands, slivers, bruised knees and other minor injuries. Sometimes the trail can feel long (5 k is nothing to sneeze at!), and steep parts can make even adult legs tired. But with a goal in sight (making it all the way back to the car), some encouragement, snacks and water breaks, and some quests (today it was looking for chanterelle mushrooms, though unfortunately we didn't find any), my kids usually find the energy and the endurance to make it all the way without too much trouble.
- It gives kids a connection to nature - I personally believe that an interest in, and personal connection to, nature can help encourage kids to be more environmentally aware and responsible. I also believe it can help spawn an interest in science (biology, zoology, and so on). It also gives kids knowledge of local places where you can go to get exercise, to relax, or just spend some time in the natural world. All those things can serve them well whatever their age I figure.
For a short hike like the Lynn Loop trail I don't pack a lot, but I do bring a few things in my backpack:
- some easy-to-eat snacks like pretzels and granola bars
- a small pouch with band-aids, just in case someone slips and falls, or just needs a magic band-aid to get rid of a minor owie
- a pair of dry pants and socks for each kid (especially when it's a bit muddy and wet in the woods)
- a water bottle (and another in the car)