Today’s guest post is by Cloe Matheson – She’s a writer from New Zealand with a passion for all things travel and adventure.
Hiking is a great learning experience for kids. It provides the perfect opportunity to develop both cognitive and survival skills in an enjoyable setting, as well as enjoying quality family time. A family adventure can boost your child’s confidence and teach them many valuable lessons.
Choosing where and when to go
A successful family hiking expedition requires planning, and including your kids in this part is essential. Pick out some options, see our suggestions below, and look up the information about each place with your children. Encourage them to read through all the details to help them to decide which place they would like to visit.
Photo credit: 27707 via Pixabay
Choose a destination not too far from home. A long car ride can ruin the expedition. As your kids become more accustomed to going on hiking expeditions, you can increase the travelling distance and extend to overnight trips. Starting off, however, keep the journey short.
Also, choosing a time of year when the weather is likely to be reasonable makes hiking with kids more enjoyable. Always check the climatic conditions and warning alerts before leaving, and make sure that you pack for all situations. Be sure to include both raincoats and sunscreen. Choose a destination and time when there won’t be too many people around so that you will feel that it is your personal family adventure. Look for somewhere that has a particular point of interest, such as a waterfall or a swimming hole.
Photo credit: via PxHere
Packing and clothing
Encourage your children to pack and carry their own personal backpack. Don’t overload them but make sure they have water and snacks just in case. Make sure that you carry a first-aid kit and sufficient water and high energy foods to keep you all going even if you get delayed. Dress your kids in various layers of clothing which can be removed or replaced as required. Ensure that they have sturdy, comfortable walking boots or shoes that they have already worn several times.
Photo credit: Tirachard Kumtanom via Pexels
Safety and orientation
Take the opportunity to get your kids used to following where they are on the map. Get them looking out for landmarks and accustomed to checking their position regularly. Take a compass along and practice basic map-reading and orientation skills. Talk about the importance of staying on the marked trails and not wandering off alone. Stress the need to take extra care when near water.
Photo credit: via PxHere
Take along a nature guide so you can look up and identify the flora and fauna you will encounter along your walk. Encourage your children to observe the wonders of nature and to respect it. Make sure that they realise the importance of conserving these natural places and not to damage or contaminate in any way.
Photo credit: Hagerty Ryan via Pixnio
Other excellent NZ trails for families with kids to explore include…
Northland – the Smugglers Bay Loop Track, 1.5 hours, forest, views and a WWII gun!
Auckland – Motutapu Island, variety of interesting walks of different lengths
Coromandel – the Kauaeranga Valley has numerous family-friendly trails
Waikato – Kaniwhaniwha Caves and Nikau walk, 2.5 hours, caves, and swimming hole
Bay of Plenty – Tuahu Kauri walking tracks, 40-50-mins, featuring Kauri trees
East Coast – Mangaone Cave track, 40 mins, caves with stalactites and stalagmites
Central North Island – Aratiata Rapids tracks, up to 2 hours, kids love it when the dam gates open
Taranaki – Ratapihipihi Scenic reserve walk, 45 mins, sub-tropical rainforest, waterfalls
Manawatu/Whanganui – Manawatu Gorge Tawa Loop walk, 2 hours, podocarp forest, views, massive landslide, and kids can earn Kiwi Guardians medal
Hawkes Bay – Otatara Pa Historic Reserve walk, 1.5 hours, ancient Maori Pa site and views
Wairarapa – Pinnacles Track, various lengths, spectacular rock formations
Wellington/Kapiti – Orongorongo Track, 4 hours, Different forest tyres and swimming holes
Nelson/Tasman – Wainui Falls Track 1.5 hours, waterfall and swing bridge
Marlborough – Wairau Lagoons Walkway, 3 hours, lots of birds, rusting ship remains
West Coast – Cape Foulwind Walkway, 1.25 hours, seals, lighthouse, views
Canterbury – Arthurs Pass, various choices, alpine views and forest, waterfalls
Otago – Arrowtown Chinese Settlement
Fiordland – Kepler track, 1-2 hours, lake views, swimming, take a water taxi back
Southland – Ulva Island-Te Wharwhara walking tracks – various options.
Cloe Matheson is a writer from New Zealand with a passion for all things travel and adventure. She enjoys experiencing different cultures, trying local food and exploring new places. You can often find her at a local café typing away while enjoying a good cup of coffee. See more of her work here.