Hiking With Kids: Tips For Making It a Success!
Having a child is no reason to eliminate hiking off the list of family vacation ideas! It may mean changing things up a little bit and not expecting to be able to make it up the mountain as quickly or opting for a shorter, flatter hike, but it does not make hiking an impossibility! Hiking can not only help you build priceless memories as a family, it can also teach so many important life lessons to the young, growing child who is in the exploration stage of life!
Hiking for any age is not completely without the risk of danger, but there are plenty of things you can do to make it safer for both you and your family. After taking many hiking trips with my daughter and her cousins, I have discovered many ways of both maximizing fun and maintaining the safety of every involved and have included them below to share with you!
Make It a Game!
Whenever I add a scavenger hunt into any adventure with my daughter it magically makes it something she wants to do, even if she is not a big fan of the activity. Hiking is one such activity, whether it be a shorter, flat hike along a path or a hike heading into the woods and up a mountain. You can find pre-made and printable scavenger hunts, such as this one, or create your own specifically designed for your hiking trail/area. You can also incorporate some popular children’s games into the hike, such as I-Spy, to keep the kids entertained along the way. They may even reach the summit without even noticing the work!
Give the Kids Some Control!
Instead of trying to take charge, hand that stick over to your youngest hiking member (or members!). Let them be in charge, take the lead, and make some decisions about which way to go! Of course, don’t let them lead you into an unsafe area, but if there is an equally safe option between two trails at a fork, let them make the choice! It will get them more involved and get them more excited about the hike. This can come into play even before leaving for the hike to by giving your child/children a choice between a couple different options and letting them decide which they want to do.
Bring Lots of Snacks and Fluids
Okay, so this one is a given for any type of trip with kids. When going hiking with kids this is especially important because the physical activity takes a drain on their little bodies and they will undoubtedly be asking for a snack before to long! It is also important to stay hydrated, especially on a hot summer day. It is always a good idea to bring a little more than you think you will need to make sure you don’t run out!
Choose Your Hike Based on the Youngest Hiking Member’s Ability
There are endless options for hiking and despite your location there is bound to be something for hikers of every level! When heading out for a family hiking trip you may have a big age range. When hitting the trails I often times see families with three or more generations, including grandparents, parents, and children/grandchildren. Even further, there may be a combination of older children and toddlers.
When deciding on which trail to head to be sure to choose based on the ability of the youngest hiker in your group. Be sure it is something that they will be able to complete and that you have the extra time hiking with kids requires to be able to complete the hike at their pace. Unless you are prepared to carry a 40+ pound child to the top of the mountain, this is a must!
Equip Your Kids For Safety
One of your main concerns when hiking with kids should always be safety! While hiking with kids can be a great adventure and bring so many lessons about nature and life, it also brings with it some dangers. Teaching your kids about hiking, the wilderness, and wildlife before heading out and teaching them safety tips can help prepare them and reduce the chance of them getting injured on the trails. As I will discuss more later on, always equip them in case they become lost too!
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
This tip is good for any hike, whether you have the kids with you or not! If you are heading out for a hike, always tell a friend or family member where you are going. If something were to happen, if you got stuck in bad weather, or you got lost or sidetracked from the main trail someone would know that you did not return when expected and would know where you are to send help. It is an extra safety precaution that takes very little effort!
Bring Extra Layers
Bringing extra layers is always a good idea! There is always the chance that at the top of the mountain the weather is going to be cooler or that wind levels will be high, making it chilly. In some cases you may even find a snowy top when ground level is warmer. Always dress in warmer layers and if it gets too warm you can remove them! You can’t warm up if you don’t have it!
Bring a First Aid Kit
A first aid is always handy, especially if you are bringing kids along! You never know what might happen. Someone might fall and trip, scrapping up their arms/legs, get stung by a bee, have an allergic reaction, and the list goes on and on when it comes to kids! Having a basic first aid kit can save you a lot of trouble and help you take care of minor bumps and bruises along the way.
Teach Your Kids What To Do If They Get Lost
Safety is a top concern while hiking, especially when hiking with kids. Depending on the age of the child they may or may not be able to understand and know what to do if they happen to get separated from mom and dad, but you can give them some basic instructions. This may include giving your child a whistle that they can blow to help get your attention and guide you to them. It may also include teaching them to stay in the area instead of wandering off any further, taking cover under a tree, and waiting for help to arrive. If the child is old enough and able to carry a small backpack give them one with an extra layer of clothing, a snack, and some water.
Choose an Interesting Hike
While I wouldn’t dare to say there are boring hikes, there are plain hikes, which are most likely flat paths with very little to see, and there are more interesting hikes which may feature paths along a river or other body of water, a stream the kids can run through, rocks or boulders for climbing, trees or tree stumps to explore and climb through, and in some cases even ruins of once standing homes, camps, or mansions. Try to find a hike that has a little extra to offer that will hold the attention of the kiddos and make for a much more interesting adventure!
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