As a mother of six, I have a lot of experience with entertaining children. When my oldest kids were all under the age of five, keeping busy meant playgrounds, pretzel necklaces, and a baby pool. Outings were entirely centered around our kids, which brought us to a lot of petting zoos, toddler playhouses, and mini-water parks.
As we were blessed with more children over the years, the age gap in our family widened significantly. So, times have changed.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited a gymboree at the mall with my youngest son. Instead, at 3 months old he was toted along as we hiked, fished, and explored on a cross country road trip. At age 2, he rode on our shoulders to the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. At 3, he climbed Ben A’an in Scotland (on our shoulders, of course!) And he was happy as could be the whole way through.
Now, my kids range in age from 5 to 20. There’s no magic show, tractor ride, or chocolate workshop that will please everyone in the family. But hiking? As long as we stick to the right type of hikes, being in the great outdoors keeps everyone happy.
It’s free. It’s beautiful. There’s water in the summertime and flowers in spring. Hiking makes people happy when they’re down. It energizes while simultaneously sucking up vast quantities of little boy energy. It’s pretty much the perfect activity.
Now, when I plan our vacations, I steer clear of pay activities and tourist traps. Of course, we still make sure to schedule in a few of the more universally loved paid activities (canoeing, horseback riding, a special restaurant, yes!), but we find that at the end of the day, being outdoors is what really draws everyone in. The dopamine release of a good hike is slow and sweet and lasting. There’s time to talk and bond. And of course, picnic time on the trail appeals to everyone.
For these reasons, hiking is my number one go-to family activity. Man’s deep love of nature and the outdoors transcends boundaries of age and status, making it perfectly suited to just about everyone.