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Hit the Trails, and Pack a Snack!
June 26, 2012 - Jamie O'Hare
Summer is in full swing with VBS, a birthday in our family, swimming, picnics, travel, and park playtimes. We work to keep the O'kids active on these long days home, but too much structured programming can be an overload and undermine the decompression period that kids need. On sunny and cool days like today, nothing beats a hike in the woods at Oglebay. A few friends and I took 8 kids, ages 8 months to 8 years on a beautiful hike today, and it was a lot of fun! Never done this before? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
The best place to start on all three trails is at the Schrader Center. The Center has backpacks for rent with gear that will aid in family exploration of different habitats. Good parking, restrooms, and picnic tables too! As tempting as Crocs and sandals are, ditch them and wear sneakers. Take it from the momma who forgot this today and carried a 30lb preschooler (whose shoes kept falling off and getting rocks in them) in a baby carrier and carried the baby in my arms. I had Birkenstocks on and kept getting rocks in mine as well, and it shortened the duration and enjoyment of our walk significantly! So yeah, sneakers are a must. Play clothes are also important because someone is bound to end up dirty or wet, and there is no reason to hamper their fun by worrying about their clothes.
As long as they won't use them as lightsabers (mine didn't!), encourage the kids to find a good walking stick. This seems to increase their endurance and enjoyment, as does hiking with a group of friends. Another idea from my friend Kelly is to put packing tape on their wrists as a bracelet with the sticky side out, and they can put little leaves and flowers and other treasures on it during their walk. At the end, they can put the tape on a window and have a pretty decoration. Another great idea is to give each child a length of yarn or a licorice string and have them string snacks (Cheerios, pretzels, dried fruits) on the string. Then they wear it as a necklace during their hike and can keep going with a little energy boost. My kids call it a "snacklace"! Plenty of water will keep everyone hydrated and ready to explore.
Older kids may be interested in photographing animal tracks, wildlife, and each other. An old digital camera is perfect for this, just in case it ends up in the stream (true story!). Old crayons can be used for making rubbings at the end of a nature hike. At the end of all this adventuring, you can bet they'll be hungry. My friend Kelly suggested making veggie kabobs for our lunch or dinner next time, and it sounds fantastic! Nothing gets kids eating like a hike followed by an opportunity to eat food on a stick! Suggested food? Cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrot disks, celery chunks, pepper slices, bread cubes, and cheese along with some dressing or hummus to dip them in. Dessert could include fruit kabobs, maybe even with marshmallows!
Getting out to explore and experience nature is a lost art, but I can't think of a nicer way to spend a few hours with family and friends!
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