5 ways to get kids outside during the school year by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

Fall is in full swing, which means we’ve kissed the freedom of summer goodbye once again and our children have returned to school. For my family, this is the first year that both of our kids are in school full-time.

In the past, the majority of our time hiking consisted of me and my younger son hiking or snowshoeing during school hours. We hiked together 2-3 times on weekdays while my husband was at work and my older son was at school. We typically squeezed in one or two family hikes on the weekends (when it wasn’t ski season, of course).

Now that both of our kiddos are in school, I am finding it more difficult to get out on hikes. Many days, after school, we have homework, sports and tired little guys who are still getting adjusted to their new schedule. It might not be easy, but finding time to hike is important for our family and we need to find creative ways to get our hike on.

Here are the top 5 ways for families of school-aged kids to find time for hiking

1. Evening dinner picnic hikes

We all know the promise of snacks can get the littles moving. But what about the promise of a delicious and fun dinner picnic to get your bigger kids going?

Pack up an easy-to-serve dinner and head to a spot with a super cool view. At the top, set up your picnic and enjoy dinner together as a family. Hang out for a while and play for some extra family bonding time. When you’ve all had your fill of food and fun, hike on back to where you started. What’s better than a hike to get the digestion process kicked into gear.

2. Hike home from school or the bus stop

You can park a farther distance from school and walk to school or the bus stop, and again walk home with your kids. I do this quite often. We even pass a hiking trail to our local waterfall on the way from school to our house.

I’ll usually let my kids play on the school playground for about a half hour before we head home. Oftentimes, we’ll stop and look at various plants on the way home and take detours onto different trails. We usually get home just in time for me to start making dinner.

If you live too far from school to walk the entire way home, consider parking a manageable distance from the school and walking that bit together.

In addition to walking home from school, our town also promotes Walking Wednesday. On Wednesday mornings, the principal and teachers from school meet at the gazebo in the town green and walk the students up to the elementary school. It’s great to start the day with a hike!

3. Friday Night Hikes (and campfire, of course)

Plan a hike for after dark on a Friday night. Because there is no school the next day, you can stay out a bit later. Make sure it is a safe area to hike in at night and bring all necessary and precautionary supplies.

Invite your kids’ friends and their parents. Bring flashlights and supplies for making a campfire. A book on identifying star constellations might be fun, too. Don’t forget the S’mores!

5 ways to get kids outside during the school year by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

4. Plan long day hikes on the weekend

If getting out for a hike after school isn’t going to work for your family, try planning a longer day hike on the weekend. You may not be able to fit in short hikes on weekdays, but you can make up that time and those miles by planning a longer hike on the weekend.

While the weather is still nice, maybe even plan an overnight hiking/camping trip. Fall can provide some of the best conditions and scenery for this type of outing.

5. Partner with your kids’ school

See if your kids’ school might be interested in incorporating hiking into the curriculum. You may be able to collaborate with the Gym/Health department by presenting the health and wellness benefits of hiking. Another option is reaching out to the Science department and suggesting nature walks where natural science topics from the classroom are explored outside.

If your kids’ school already has a program like this in place, volunteer to help out. You can get some hike time in with your kids and their classmates during school hours!

Bonus:

If you homeschool, hike during traditional school hours! For many, homeschooling offers the flexibility to schedule your day in a way that best suits your family. How wonderful would it be to schedule in some hike time?

While sending our kids off to school for 7-8 hours a day limits our available daylight hours with them, there are still multiple creative ways to getting hiking on your family’s agenda.

How do you keep your school-aged children hiking through the school year?

For more ideas on hiking with school-aged kids, join our HiB Big Kids Facebook group!

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Photos by Jessica Human.

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