Adventures in the wild: top tips for hiking with kids while camping
Hiking in France is a wonderful family activity to a way to get the kids out of the campsite for a brand-new experience on at least one or two days of the holiday! It offers feel-good views of the lovely French countryside, lessons of flora and fauna, fun picnics and great exercise.
Kids will love hiking eventually, but you’ll have to teach them to appreciate it. Family hiking is different to adult-only hiking (not all children will be motivated to climb a hill for hours on end), but if you incorporate exciting elements in the hike and plan to finish just before you know they tend to get tired or bored, then they will arrive back at the campsite having enjoyed the day as much as you.
Hiking with kids is all about planning. Whether you’re hiking with babies or you’re normally just used to walking with kids for shorter distances, getting them hooked on longer walks in the form of a hike takes some preparation and a lot of parental motivation. But it is worth it. There’s a very special feeling when you coax your kids to reach the top of the hill you’re aiming for, or complete something like a five-kilometre loop.
Even young children can handle this distance given the right amount of time, rest and quality food. After their first successful family hike, you’ll quickly see them ramp up their distances and it’s a real pleasure when the mention of a hike is considered a great day out and not a hardship. If you’d like to get your family out to enjoy a hike, then follow our handy guide to hiking with kids while camping.
Getting started with family camping
From bonding to learning about nutrition and increased fitness to introducing navigation skills, the benefits of hiking with kids while camping are many.
Hiking will help you reconnect as a family
A family hike is a wonderful way to bond and reconnect. A family is a natural team and the practice of hiking puts this front and centre. You’ll motivate each other and get to experience unique moments together as a family. It’s a great equaliser that will live long in the memory.
Hiking is great exercise for all fitness levels
Humans are built for walking and running, and travelling over rugged terrain is a great way to test this out. It’s a safe, rewarding exercise that works all the muscles and joints of your body.
A hike while camping will teach your family to love nature
On walks with kids in nature, you become very connected to the landscape around you. All your senses come alive and you realise how full of life nature is. Anyone who enjoys a hike will easily grow into a friend of the environment.
Take local advice on where to hike
Whichever French campsite you are in, you are probably near a number of different hiking trails. If they are marked trails, they will have different challenges or suit different exercise levels. Make sure to ask advice before heading out. Local tourist offices often have little books of recommended local trails ranging from an hour to four hours in duration – you may even be able to find these online before you set off for France, to free up your holiday time once there.
Introduce bird-watching into your hike
France has an amazing amount of bird life. Before you head off, see if you can find a list of birds in the regions to print off (in colour if possible); take this with you so you can identify them as you go. Kids love birds. Learning to tell them from each other and recognise their habitats is an achievement they will be proud of and a great distraction during your hike.
Pack energy snacks, water and even some sugary treats, just in case
Sugar is a short-term fix to a child’s energy levels but sometimes it’s a necessary one to keep them moving forward. Pack a small amount of sugary treats for when your child refuses to keep going. It won’t help for long, but it might get your tiny hiker over that very big hill. Slow-burning carbs like oats, in bars or flapjacks, are great snacks for keeping everyone going for longer. And keeping hydrated with lots of water is key for keeping everyone going.
Hiking teaches essential navigation skills
To hike well you need to have a planned route, a destination and a time frame for getting there. You’ll likely need a map and a compass and have an idea of whether you’re heading north, south, east or west. You’ll also become very aware of the position of the sun throughout the hike. Without even trying, your family will be learning essential navigation skills.
Bring another family on the hike and watch your children forget that it’s hard
Sometimes all a child needs is more children to make a hike more exciting. If you invite another family from the campsite to join you, it can be a lot more interesting for the kids. If that family is more experienced at hiking than you – even better!
Experience the Wild
Hiking with kids starts a lifetime of living in nature and pays back in so many different ways.
Hiking teaches you to push your limits
If you haven’t hiked before, you will return amazed at what your family is capable of. Plan properly and you’ll travel distances that you thought you couldn’t achieve and reach heights that seemed impossible.
Hiking will teach your kids the value of teamwork
Even though walking a hiking route seems like a solitary activity, the involvement of others makes it so much easier, with time passing quicker and an infinite store of talking points. Kids learn quickly that teamwork on a hike is just as important as on a football field.
Hiking can teach families about eating for healthy energy levels
Nutrition on a hike is really important and the kids will be hungry like never before. Fuelling these appetites will encourage thought about how the amounts and types of food and drinks your body needs differ depending on the activities you are doing.
Teaching motivation and taking on a challenge is an integral part of hiking
Looking at the faraway summit of a hill and thinking you’ll never get to it, and then getting there, is a wonderful lesson in what humans are capable of and builds self-belief. Hiking gives out these gifts by the dozen. Make sure you pick a route that has some good physical challenges built in.
Hiking with kids will teach you to stay positive
Hiking can be a struggle for children sometimes and they’ll need to be motivated during the hike. Stay positive and plan to change your route if needs be. Give them a destination they can understand – rather than saying we’ll finish at the car park, why not say we’ll finish at a cafe for your favourite treat? It might make all the difference.
Quick Questions on Hiking with Kids
Your first family hike doesn’t need to be complicated. Read our frequently asked questions to get started.
Is it better to have a flat route when hiking with kids?
It’s no surprise to read that kids get bored easily so, when choosing a route, pick one with varying terrain. You need some steep hills to challenge them but also to let them enjoy running down the other side. You also need flat parts to give them a rest. Take them through woodland and grassland so they can enjoy the difference and, if there’s water nearby, such as a river or lake, then think about packing togs and micro-towels!
Is there any special kit I can bring to excite the kids about the trip?
Children love details and small things, so help them by bringing binoculars or a magnifying glass, both perfect for zoning in. Most kids don’t really care about beautiful views, but show them how many bugs live under a rock and they’ll be racing ahead to look for more. Point out a bird’s nest or a rabbit hole and they’ll reward you by spotting the next one before you do.
What kind of footwear do we need?
Everyone in the family needs to have the right footwear to make sure they’re comfortable and aren’t pulled up by injury. These can be proper hiking shoes or good quality trainers with ankle support, but there is one rule to stick to: no new shoes on a hike. It’s a surefire route to blisters, while could ruin everyone’s day. Make sure that any shoes or boots you wear are already well broken in around the house or campsite.
What kind of food do I need for a hike?
The fresh air and exercise is going to make everyone hungry. You’ll need a good combination of ingredients to keep everyone’s energy levels balanced, but you have to stay light as well. A go-to picnic bag includes bread, meat, cheeses, leaves and avocado that can be easily carried in their packages and assembled at the picnic site (bring a light plastic chopping board and a knife). Nuts, oranges, apples and carrot or cucumber sticks are also great for eating on the go. Look for good-quality granola bars as oaty, long-lasting snacks. You can also find hiking trails in France that have food stops along the trail, such as countryside cafes or restaurants.
Will I find water on the route?
While a route may bring you near water like a stream or river or even a fountain in a hillside village, you can’t rely on this and you should definitely bring drinking water. Bring enough to last an extra hour, in case you underestimate or get lost! Share the load between family members. Give each child their own backpack and water bottle, but make sure they’re not drinking it all in one go.
Discover the French outdoors with a hiking camping trip.