Summer is drawing to a close and Fall will be sneaking in soon. Once the days start to cool off, my husband and I enjoy finding time to head out into the woods for some quality hiking trips. We had to learn years ago how to hike with kids since we have no family around to play babysitter for us. And truthfully I WANT my kids out in nature with us. Yes, hiking with kids isn’t always as much fun as hiking with just adults. They tend to be slower, louder, and more prone to tripping or getting hurt. However, I am a firm believer in the idea that kids have to experience nature in order to learn to protect it when they get older. The next generation of environmentalists spent their childhood in the woods! So, if you want to get outside with your kids for some nature enjoyment, here are some tips on how to hike with kids that might help you all enjoy it a bit more! Whether you will be gone for an hour or a week, you will need hiking gear and supplies so I will include some affiliate links in the post for shopping!
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How to Hike with Kids and Actually Enjoy it!
- Infants and children weighing less than 15 pounds should be carried in a front body carrier or a sling.
- Children weighing 16 to 40 pounds can fit into a child carrier backpack.
- Children weighing more than 30 pounds might be ready to hike short distances and carry a little daypack.
Take a walk with the family once a day. Walk around the block, go to the park, go to the beach or the river. Get maps and books and search out and find new places to go. See new places all the time.
Walk to the grocery store. Walk to your local restaurant for dinner and back. Walk to the library. Make walking and hiking as routine as brushing your teeth
Educate constantly to generate interest and enthusiasm. Take lots of pictures of the kids and places you go. Make posters for the family and living room and for Christmas cards. Get magazines, videos, and artwork that show places you want to go. Rent movies about faraway places. Use the Internet together to look at maps, and photographs of the wildlife, environments, and spectacular scenery you will be visiting someday.
Bring on the gadgetry! Turn your computer game nerds on to the adventure technology. (e.g. GPS, pedometers headlamp flashlights, geocaching) and teach them all about how these incredible devices are being used for fun.
Older children can use the computer to research your destination or sport. (all national parks and most other destinations have websites chock full of facts & info., maps, wildlife).
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Get permission from parents and make it a club adventure.
- Research the destination & activity (Have your youngster help you with this- google, park websites, library, bookstore travel section, outfitters, etc.)
- You’ve got mail! Send for maps and guidebooks of the area, and check with the local travel experts on hiking, rangers, guides, etc. Have the packages sent to your child or children.
- Attend local slide shows or lectures (outfitters/libraries/bookstores) every chance you get.
- Hiking with kids? Plan ahead – especially when you have younger children. Choose a trail that offers easy access to domesticated amenities. Having a base camp or prearranged lodging allows you to be a parent, not a Sherpa.
- Check into transportation options. You should have a plan for what to do if you need to get off the trail.
- Identify the restaurant and grocery amenities. Not only is it good to know what’s available before you arrive so that you’ll know what to pack, but if the weather turns bad, you can have an instantly viable backup plan.
- Prepare and plan what you need based on what you find. What kinds of wildlife can you expect? Will water be available? What are the weather and terrain like? You want to avoid hiking in freezing temperatures, lightning storms, and extreme heat. You want to identify and find swimming holes, wildlife, enjoyable views, and great places to rest, look at flowers, spectacular trees, and wildlife.
- Acquire the right gear. Get everyone properly fitted into essential gear particularly hiking boots and back packs for hiking.
- Clothing- NO COTTON! Dress in layers (synthetics, fleece, wool, and waterproof breathable items. Bring what you need for the weather and conditions you will encounter Don’t forget Deet Free bug repellent and children’s sunscreen.
- Train at home in your neighborhood with your kids before you go into the wild. Practice carrying your child in the child carrier. This will help you adjust to carrying the pack, and your child will acclimate to the routine.
- Freeze-dried meals
- Foil-wrapped meats such as tuna or chicken
- Dehydrated fruit and veggies
- Sliced apples, grapes, bananas, carrots
- Energy bars or granola bars
- Peanut butter
- Cheese and sausage
- Bagels, crackers, candy bars, nuts,
- Tortilla & cheese sandwiches
- Energy bars for kids
- Oatmeal of dried cereals
Carry a first-aid kit, and brush up on child first aid and CPR. Learn about the dangers of hypothermia, and monitor children for signs. Pack all of your child’s medication.
Know the location of the nearest medical facility for you and the children.
Learn how to use a compass and map or GPS. Learn how to make a quick shelter to help keep you warm and dry. Keep matches and lighters dry and in a safe place. Know how to start a fire to keep warm. If you do get lost, make yourself as visible as possible. Place a bright item (e.g. item of clothing or gear) in the open. Make distress signals and make noise. If you brought a cell phone, check periodically to see if it works. Leave a copy of your itinerary with a friend or family member.
These tips about how to hike with kids were provided by Jeff Alt, author of the book A Walk for Sunshine: A 2,160 Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail. My thanks to the author for providing this information for us. Getting kids outside and teaching them about the joys of nature is a topic that I am extremely passionate about!
Check out Jeff’s Book on Hiking with Kids!
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.