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I just love to watch the Earth transform from the quiet of winter to the vibrance of spring. Everything seems to come alive again as the grass greens, flowers and trees begin to bloom, birds are all around us, insects are buzzing, and new goslings make their appearance. Even though spring weather can be anything but predictable, it is still a great time of year to get out and experience nature with children. We are lucky to have a tremendous wealth of forest preserves and trails throughout Lake County, with nearly 30,000 acres of preserved natural land just waiting to be discovered.
Tips for Hiking with Kids
Visit During Different Seasons
I make a point to visit the same preserve regularly with my children so they can see their favorite spots, and the cycle of nature unfold. No long explanations or detailed books are required, just a leisurely walk in the great outdoors to awaken our senses and get in touch with nature.
Ask Questions & Listen Together
I like to ask my children questions about what they may see, hear, feel, and smell to bring awareness to all of their senses. We may sing songs and tell stories as we go but, mostly, we enjoy this little refuge from the noise and distractions intrinsic in our everyday lives. I also do my best to instill a sense of reverence for the earth, and we make a point to pick up any trash that we may see in our path. You can conduct a small scavenger hunt to find signs of spring and help keep their attention and aide in learning along the trail.
Use it to Practice Walking
If you have visions (or fears) of a toddler run amuck in the forest, I find these walks to be an excellent opportunity to practice walking together without having to worry about keeping anyone out of the street. Sure it means that I am chasing him down every so often, but it pays off in the long run and, since we aren’t in a hurry, I am far less likely to become frustrated with his inevitable wandering. Plus, I always bring a good carrier along in case things go awry or little legs get tired.
These nature walks have become a highlight of our week and we have learned so much along the way. In addition to a greater awareness of the cycles of nature, we have also learned practical lessons that make it more comfortable and fun for everyone.
What to Bring When Hiking with Kids:
- proper sun protection
- bug spray once the summer is in full swing
- water for those thirsty little ones
- your camera
- binoculars or other tools to help you explore
- a bird watching book and/or nature journal for older children
- a snack or picnic lunch to enjoy once your walk is over
- crayons and blank paper for the kids to make bark rubbings or just color
- one bag to carry all of your treasures and another to collect any trash you come across
The Lake County Forest Preserve District has a tremendous network of trails and preserves throughout Lake County, many of which have additional amenities such as fishing lakes, equestrian trails, and playgrounds for our enjoyment. They also host a variety of events, so look at their calendar and be sure to check out their upcoming events and activities.
There’s nothing like a walk through the forest preserves to get in touch with nature. So bundle up and get out there… You might be surprised at what you’ll find! Ready to head out now? Find our Best Hikes for Little Hikers.
Can anyone guess which preserve is our favorite based on the above photos? Which is your favorite forest preserve?
By Kristy K.
Kristy is the mother of two young children, who join in her quest for unique restaurants, fun places to play and a little personal sanity in the process. She does her best to teach her children healthy habits, kindness, compassion and a love of nature while also learning that sometimes we need to let go of our ideals in the name of fun.
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