How to pass a love for the outdoors onto children is a question many parents ask themselves. There are many things to consider including your own sanity. Sarah gives us some hot tips on how to make hiking with kids enjoyable for everyone.


I think we can all agree that spending time outdoors on a day hike is good for the soul. It helps regulate our emotions, and increases those good feels, reducing stress and anxiety. 

We want our children to grow up with this same love and passion for adventuring that we have, and it’s rewarding watching how they discover the world around them. 


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


But let’s get real, hiking with kids isn’t always easy. In between the loveliness there’s the whinging and complaining soundtrack you didn’t request to download. 

So how do we take our kids out hiking and all end the day relatively unscathed? 

Here are my top tips for surviving and thriving on a hike with your kids.

Read more: How To Get Your Kids Into Fishing

1. Let Them Decide

The fewer options, the less confusion so offer two or three destinations, discuss them with the kids, then let them decide where the adventure will be. This will give them ownership you can hold them to if things get tough.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


2. Gear Up

Be sure to take clothes that suit the conditions. This includes suitable closed in shoes and hats. I know this sounds obvious, but after observing some questionable hike wear, I feel compelled to mention it. A small first aid pack will also ease worries – the magic of a band aid cannot be disputed.

Read more: What to Pack in Your Hiking First Aid Kit

Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt

3. Set The Safety Rules

Getting the kids involved in setting the safety rules, will help them remember what they are. My one main rule is ‘line of sight’. They must always be able to see an adult in our group, as well as each other.


4. Feed Them

Call it bribery, call it carb loading, call it whatever you like. There’s no such thing as too much food when out and about with kids. Aside from the end of hike picnic I keep in the car Esky, I load up on snacks for the trail.

Freddo Frogs are our go-to quick sugar fix and I stuff lollies into the snack pockets of their hiking backpacks.

Yes, I’m ‘that’ mum, I feed my kids shit if it makes them happier on a hike with me.

I also pack a mini picnic to have on trail, things like vegetable sticks, fruit, biscuits, small packets of crisps, and trail mix. I use these to encourage the kids to walk a bit further before resting.

‘In 10 minutes, we can stop for a rest and a snack.’

In my family, we love to sit in the bush and enjoy a cup of tea, so I always pack my Jetboil and hiking cups. We find a beautiful place to sit and enjoy our cuppa. Having a break re-energises the kids, helping them focus on where they can explore next.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


I always carry extra water too. The kids carry a water bladder in their hiking backpack, as well as my larger bladder, I take an extra water bottle for when we fire up the Jetboil.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

5. Set Goals With Them

On the drive out to our hike I ask the kids what they expect to find, hope to discover, and what they’d like to experience. My kids are now tweens, but even when they were younger, rock climbing was top of the list when deciding where we’d go. We use that as a focus to encourage them to go that bit further.

Just like normal goal setting, breaking down the hike into smaller parts makes it feel more achievable, and helps the kids get through the whingey whiney parts. Point out landmarks to aim for, letting them have a short break on arrival.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


I entice the kids to go a little further by talking about what we may find, reminding them of what they hoped for when we first talked about it. There may be rocks or an amazing view, we won’t know until we get there…sometimes this strategy works.

I also use challenging sections to teach hiking technique – how to pace, handle hills, and the art of distraction. This generally involves invoking the senses.

6. Evoke The Senses

Hiking for me is how I connect with nature in a deeper and more meaningful way than in day to day life. I make observations as we walk. I ask the kids to notice the colours of the bush and what they hear – bird song, the sound of our footsteps, the rustle of leaves.

I get them to describe what they feel – the breeze on their faces, the way the bark of a tree or the leaves of a plant feels on their fingertips as they walk by.

I get them to breathe deeply and close their eyes, noticing the smells of the bush. They describe those sensations to me and when we reflect on our day, we revisit these again.

Using the senses is a great distraction technique when things get hard, when muscles begin to fatigue and legs get sore. It also teaches the children how they can connect to the environment around them in a simple way.

7. Go Treasure Hunting

Getting kids engaged is easy when it involves treasure hunting. There are two ways I do this. First, I give each child their own treasure bag, using the Woolworths shopping bags that fold up and fit in a handbag.

They can fill that bag with treasure they find but there are rules – the items must be found on the ground – fallen leaves, bark, sticks, seed pods, and small stones. They’re not to destroy any living thing or disturb any ecosystem.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


When we’re done with our hike, they get to use their treasures to make some nature art. Or they may pick two to three items to bring home as memory keepers. The rest gets released back into the bush.

This serves a couple of purposes, if you have a kid like my boy who loves collecting things – any bit of nature or found object – it saves your pocket space. It also makes the kids observant.

We talk about the treasures that we’ve found, paying attention to how they look and feel and how they’re designed to survive in the environment.

This second suggestion is a bit crafty, and it’s what I did when the children were very young.

I’d make them a Treasure Collecting Book. It’s quite simple to do. Get a small pile of paper sandwich bags making sure the openings are at the top.

Then wrap in plain A4 paper to make a cover, and staple together, making a book. When the kids have collected their nature treasure, their most precious pieces get put in one of the bags, creating a book of treasure.

The front of the bag can be drawn on, have a story written on it about the item, or just some notes about the hike and your child’s memories. Then they can take it to school for show and tell and talk about their adventure or save it as a memory keeper.

Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt

8. Make Nature Art

Whether it’s on a longer break, or when our hike has finished, the children use their treasures to create nature art. They’ll thread small sticks through dried leaves, create small cairns (nothing big and damaging to the environment, and taken down before we leave) and create patterns using leaves, sticks, and seed pods.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


When we go camping I keep a bag of craft supplies at our campsite. It’s usually stocked with craft glue, googly eyes, air dry clay, and balls of wool.

The clay is used to make nature imprints using dried leaves, sticks, and seed pods. Creating a frame with sticks, the kids use the wool along with leaves and other found objects to weave together. And the craft glue, well we always need that. Making Conky Nut people is always fun.

9. Timing is Everything

Taking the kids hiking is about giving them an experience they’ll learn from and keep positive memories of so they come back for more.

Your goal may be completing a full 10km loop hike, but the reality is children fatigue, their legs are shorter and their tolerance is less than yours. Pay attention to their behaviour, and know when it’s time to go home. A short time is still a brilliant time.


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt

‘Best. Day. Ever!’ – My kids after an epic hike with rock scrambling

After a hiking adventure, we make a point of reflecting on our time in the bush. Asking questions such as ‘What was your favourite part?’ ‘What surprised you?’, and getting them to tell you more helps reinforce the experience. 


Hiking With Kids – 9 Tips To Make It Enjoyable for Everyone, Sarah Schmitt


Children love adventure and there’s nothing better than listening to them debriefing each other saying ‘Best day ever!’. It makes the hard bits totally worthwhile.

So whether you use all of these tips, or just a few, I hope you get out there to make special memories with your own family.