For Parents


Kid-Friendly Ways to Encourage Hiking

The benefits of introducing children to the outdoors are abundant. Spending time in nature improves physical health by encouraging active lifestyles and reducing stress. It also enhances mental well-being by providing a break from screens and technology, promoting creativity, and fostering a sense of calm and tranquility. Additionally, outdoor experiences teach children to appreciate and respect the environment, instilling in them a lifelong commitment to conservation and sustainability. Overall, by immersing children in the wonders of the natural world, parents set them on a path to a healthier, happier, and more connected life. Here are some ideas to make the most of your outdoor experience.


1. Hiking with children is a fun and rewarding experience: it promotes family bonding and a healthy, active life. Fortunately, the Essex Land Trust’s 24 preserves with more than 35 miles of trails right in town mean you don’t have to go far to amble on an easy scenic trail, hike a river-spanning bridge, explore a marsh boardwalk, or visit a sandy river shore. The following tips will help your young hikers engage their senses, explore, and play while they hike.
2. Choose child-friendly trails: If it’s your first hike, pick something guaranteed to be a fun success!
3. Make it a scavenger hunt: Use the ELT Explorer program to engage young hikers in age-appropriate scavenger hunts looking for natural elements along the trails.
4. Praise and encouragement: Complement young hikers. Call attention to how strong and capable they are.

5. Bring snacks and treats: Pack snacks to keep energy up during the hike and a special treat for the end as motivation.
6. Remember fun is in the journey: Let young hikers lead the way and explore their surroundings. Allow them to stop and investigate bugs, flowers, or animal tracks.
7. Play nature games: Incorporate games into the hike — play “I Spy” with natural objects, collect different colored leaves or flowers, skip stones across a stream.
8. Bring tools to explore: Give your young hikers binoculars, magnifying glasses, or a small bug-catching kit to enhance their exploration of the natural world.

9. Capture the moment: Bring a camera or smartphone to take photos. Encourage children to document their hiking adventures and create a scrapbook.
10. Do a pre-hike brief: Talk about rules of the trail (running ahead?), staying on the trail, and what fun things to expect on the trail (bridge, stream, hill, etc.). Tell them you are all prepared (band aids) if there are any little scrapes along the way. Ask each hiker to carry their own water – even a small amount is good practice!
11. Relive your experience after the hike: Remember the fun and how strong your hikers were.

Essex Land Trust Membership

Become a member of the Essex Land Trust and get a free copy of our Essex Land Trust Preserves & Trails Guide, two illustrated Essex oriented nature guides, and regular updates on our family-friendly hikes and kayak trips. To become a member, click on Join Us.