The number one DM we receive on social media is, “How do you even get your kids to go on so many hikes?!” We get it! Sometimes kids don’t like hiking at all, and our kids were no exception, especially our youngest. She used to mope and moan and make it a miserable experience for everyone. We decided we didn’t want to drag her around, so we shifted gears, and it has changed everything! She loves to be outside, and she can’t wait for our next hike. So how did we accomplish this?
1- Pack fun treats! Our kids eat healthy almost all of the time, and we like it that way. There are a couple of things they love, and if we let them enjoy those things on hikes, they are always happy to go! Our kids love potato chips, small candy bars, and what we call “oaty balls.” Those are delicious and deceptively healthy too, so we pack lots of those.
2- Let them pick the hike. There are so many amazing places to explore in Southern Utah, so we let our kids pick where they want to go. We use the app All Trails and the site Hike St George. We narrow down the options using the filter function, then we let them go to town picking where they want to go. They are always more bought in when they are the ones holding the reigns.
3- Find ways to make it fun for them! Our youngest loves to tell elaborate, made up on the spot stories; so we started letting her tell one of us a story on the hike. We typically set a timer for 20 minutes, and one of us gives her all of our attention, and she eats it right up! She talks for days about the story she told and how she can’t wait for the next. Our middle girl loves to climb anything and everything, so we patiently let her run about at times, and we get super excited to see how high up she’s gotten. We have so many pictures of her perched on various rocks! Our oldest loves music, and while we don’t want her plugged into that the entire time, we let her listen with one ear while the youngest is doing her story time. Each one is motivated differently so we use that to make them love our time together!
4- Talk to them! Kids really want to connect with their parents, even when it feels like they’d rather be anywhere else. They want your attention and focus. They want to know they matter! We try to connect as a couple at another time, and we try to use hiking as family connection time, and we talk with our kids. Actually, mostly we listen! And this has changed everything! We have a better relationship with our teen than ever before!
5- Practice! We didn’t start out hiking as a family. In fact, it really wasn’t our thing at all! It all started when we were getting ready to go on a vacation to England. We knew we would be doing a lot of walking, and we didn’t want it to be a miserable experience for our then barely 4 year-old. So we told the kids we were practicing for England, and we went on a lot of walks. We started at a mile, and we slowly increased it until our girls ages 4, 6, and 9 walked 12 miles in one day alone in England (the youngest maybe 10, we did carry her occasionally).
England would have been a very miserable experience if we didn’t spend that time preparing, and hiking is the same way. Start by walking around your neighborhood. Teach your kids to keep going and not stop. Teach them to go in a fairy straight line because littles tend to wander a lot if not taught. Before you know it, you will be hitting long trails! Our girls ages 8, 10, and 13 can easily hike 15 miles in a day with almost no complaint, but we didn’t start anywhere near there!
6- Get Dilbert! You knew the plug was coming, but really the reason Dilbert came about in the first place, and the reason we jumped on board, is that we wanted kids to love adventure and hiking! It’s so important for kids to be outside and to experience nature, and Dilbert really helps accomplish that! Get them a fanny pack, put a few snacks in there (and maybe even a Succulent plush) and remind them they are like Dilbert! They will love it!
Hiking is an inexpensive way to bond as a family, and your kids will talk about your adventures for years to come! In a world that would have kids plugged in all the time, give them the gift of outdoor time and time with those they love most. It will make all the difference!
Ashley and Justin
Ashley and Justin are the illustrators and website runners for Dilbert the Duck. They started as award winning professional photographers and are so excited to share their love of photography and the national parks with kids everywhere!