I featured Sean Higgins, the interpretation and education manager for North Carolina State Parks, a week or so ago. The father of a six-year-old and twin 18-month-olds has spent a lot of time getting kids outside to enjoy nature.

As the parks system marks its 100th anniversary, I asked Higgins to share some of those tricks for getting outside with kids and his favorite hikes for families within an hour or so of the Triangle. We’re starting with tips. Stay tuned next week as we roll out his favorite hikes!

Thank you, Sean!

Sean’s Tips to Make Family Hikes Fun for Young Children

  • Play Games: We play tag along the trail where the trees are base and you have to switch trees when the tagger calls “Squirrel Scramble.”  We have gotten a 4-year-old to go many extra miles by Squirrel Scrambling. 
  • Sing songs: If you happen to hear, “hi ho the merry o, a hiking we will go,” then you may be sharing the trail with the Higgins family.
  • It’s OK to Bring Along One Toy: A matchbox car, a plastic lizard or a Barbie doll can add some fun along the trail. I suggest keeping it in a backpack until its time for a break.
  • Bring an Extra Set of Clothes: If there is a safe way to get muddy and wet, then you have to give in and let the kids get muddy and wet. 

Sean’s Tips to Stay Comfortable and Safe Outdoors on Hikes This Summer

  • Bring Plenty of Snacks and Water: Our standbys are grapes and granola bars. Everything tastes better when you’re tired and hungry. The kids may even eat the raisins.  
  • Stay on Trails and Avoid Sitting on Logs. You can avoid most of the nasty bugs like ticks and chiggers by staying on the trail.
  • Take Advantage of Good Weather: Summer can be sweltering, so hit the trail in the morning. Don’t be too deterred by the rainy cloud icon on your phone, as we often get a nice drop in temperature after a rain.
  • Bring a Map: It’s easy to forget the paper map.  So take a picture of the trailhead map with your phone, or grab a screenshot of the map online.  Even near urban areas, many state parks don’t have good cell phone reception.

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