Is your next family holiday an adventure on the Camino de Santiago? Fantastic choice! Walking holidays are a great way for families to enjoy special bonding time together while being active. To get the most out of your family holiday, it is important to prepare well and plan ahead.
Although there is no concrete “kid training plan”, we collected some great training tips for your children to get ready for the Camino! Every child and every family is different, so work with the group to see where everyone is in terms of fitness and abilities.
We have also created a training plan for adults to prepare you. It’s a great plan to adjust when training with your children.
Most importantly, when preparing your kids for a hike is to focus on making it fun! As adults, we know how walking makes us happier and healthier. When you are a child, however, you might find hiking tiring, maybe a little boring, and need a little more inspiration.
So how do we make hiking fun with kids? Below you will find tips and tricks on how to tickle the hiking motivation of your kids. Fun and motivation are the best kid training plan for a family hiking holiday.
Plan Your Camino Family Holiday Together
Get excited and inspired!
Plan your walking holiday with your children and include them as much as possible. Talk up the family adventure and show your kids pictures of the Camino and its surroundings. A great way to include them in the planning phase is to teach them about the Camino, it’s history and what they can explore on this trip.
If your children are old enough, it might also be fun to teach them some phrases in Spanish, French or Portuguese! Things like “Please can I have some ice-cream” are always fun.
Another fun family activity is to prepare a national dish for the family at home to acquaint them with the Spanish culture. We recommend the delicious almond cake, Tarta de Santiago as a tasty and easy place to start.
We also created a fun and inspiring list of children’s books about the Camino. Some include some extra skills in learning French and Spanish.
Start walking with your family
Once you got your family interested in the Camino, it is smart to focus on walking and hiking. Try to set reasonable hiking goals. Explore different walks in your neighbourhood and begin with smaller hikes which you can extend when you feel your kids are ready.
See if they want to bring a friend along for a hike in your area to make things more interesting. Kids are great motivators and make the whole game even more fun.
Start early in the day when everyone is relaxed after a good night sleep. Make sure everyone has had a good breakfast and is hydrated. Pick routes that are extra interesting – such as hikes with a small stream to cross and make it fun.
If you have a dog – bring them along on shorter training hikes to make it even more enjoyable for everyone. Did you know, you can even bring your dog on the Camino, as well? It requires a lot of planning, but it’s possible!
Go at Their Pace
Remember that your kid is still a little human with much shorter legs than you. You will need to adjust to their pace and slow down to their speed. Let your children set the pace by encouraging them to walk in front. If they would like to explore something on the way, ensure to count in extra time to do so.
Depending on your children’s age, be prepared to carry them if absolutely necessary. For longer hikes, here’s a list of recommended child carriers that might come in handy when hiking with a sleepy toddler.
Take Plenty of Snacks
Things like apples, oranges, bananas, dried fruit, biscuits, nuts and their favourite treats will provide energy throughout the day. They are great snacks for a Camino family holiday. You can also use them to motivate your little ones – “we’ll stop for a cookie at the top of the hill” is excellent motivation for kids and adults alike!
Make sure to pass drinks around whenever you stop for snacks or rests to keep everyone hydrated.
Make Hiking a Family Game
The best way to excite your children about hiking is to make a game out of it. You can start by assigning your kid a “job” and give them responsibilities on this family adventure. For instance,
- Give your child a map and let them lead the way.
- Ask them to spot all the signposts or markings along the way.
- Set goals together, such as a lake nearby or an ice cream shop somewhere along the trail.
- Give them a camera and task them with documenting the walk.
- Set up a pointing scavenger hunt that will help them engage in the plants and birds that you might pass on the trail.
These goals and games can act as a reward system to keep your children motivated and challenge them at the same time.
If you need ways to keep them engaged and stop them from thinking about how tired they are – add some games to the mix:
- Make up a story about the hike and your adventures – maybe you are explorers in a jungle or training to be the next David Attenborough.
- Sing songs – learn some walking songs together from YouTube videos.
- Play “I spy” and see what you can see around you.
- Use your imagination – ask them to design a robot that would do something useful in their minds, ask them to imagine what life would be like on the moon, pretend that everyone is a pirate and speak in pirate voices.
On your hiking adventure, there is lots for your kids to discover, so praise them for their effort about new discoveries and have fun and get excited. On the Camino, for example, you can discover lots of interesting symbols or spot animals. In your home area, you might find similar ways to excite and train your child in a playful manner.
It is also an excellent opportunity to teach your kids about culture and nature. Simply put: they are learning by exploring.
Teach Your Kids to Have an Impact
An outdoor family holiday on the Camino is a great way to teach your children about sustainability and respecting their environment around them. Talk to them about their surrounding nature – you can start right on your doorstep.
Help them to understand the needs of plants and animals around us. Talk about what things eat and drink and how they stay safe. You can also talk about human impacts on their natural habitats and what we need to do to help them to continue living in the world we love so much.
Walking holidays are an excellent opportunity to teach the entire family some good outdoor ethics and how to look after nature.
- Stay on the trails and don’t allow your children to take shortcuts.
- Remind them not to do any littering and make sure to use the right bins. You can even start picking up litter to help look after the trails.
- Avoid picking flowers or damaging plants – take pictures instead, which last longer.
- Teach them about the peace and quiet nature has to offer and avoid yelling or loud noises which might frighten animals. A good way to make this a game is to ask them to listen out for 5 different sounds and try to identify them.
- Talk about respecting other hiker’s space and leaving them alone if they look like they want some alone time.
Inspire them to look after nature by showing them how beautiful and interesting it is! Use a magnifying glass to examine plants or unusual insects or simply smell fresh flowers. Download a plant or bug identification app to your phone and let the kids walk around identifying things when you stop for breaks. You could also use a book for this.
Finally, you can have them take photos and use a journal or a sketchbook to document their experiences and discoveries. You will have some excellent family memories guaranteed!
Get the Right Camino Gear and Shoes
A great way to fully include children on a walking holiday is to get them their own gear. Let kids carry their own little backpack. However, make sure it’s not too heavy and only includes little essentials such as their own water bottle, an apple, a sun hat and a small, light toy. If you need tips on what to pack, take a look at our packing list here.
In addition to the right backpack, make sure your kids have the proper walking shoes and socks to avoid blisters or tired feet. Our guide for the right footwear gives you great tips on what to look out for and the same rules apply to children. The right footwear depends also on the length and type of walking route you are choosing. The season is another important factor to consider.
Pay Attention to Your Kids’ Needs
You know your children best, so pay close attention to their needs when hiking. Ensure they stay hydrated and bring lots of healthy snacks on your Camino family holiday. Pay attention not to bring many sweetened drinks as they will make your children even more thirsty and tired in the long term.
Look after your kids’ energy level and make lots of stops when needed, or alternate plans if necessary. These breaks are a great right time to explore the surrounding area or play a quiet game with them. A card game can be a nice easy thing to pack for breaks.
Plan the Right Route
Finally, keep in mind that when walking with children, you want to adjust walking times and distances. A great family Camino holiday is the Camino Portuguese Coastal Walk but any Camino route can be adjusted to your needs and wishes by our Camino experts. They will also be able to give you some advice on distances and back-up plans along the way.
If you are interested in more active family holidays, take a look at our new sub-brand “Family Active Travel” for more family inspiration, travel tips and wonderful walking and cycling holidays.
Contact us today to plan your next active family holiday! Buen Camino!
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Originally published on 30th May 2020