Guest Post by: Shannon Minnis
When you’re on a solo hike or with other adults, you know to focus on the trail ahead and staying safe. However, that’s not the case with kids. If you’ve gone hiking with kids, you know that you have to keep them entertained and safe at the same time.
That can seem like an impossible task, but if you can do it, hiking with kids can become your new favorite family activity. Before you go hiking with kids, here are some tips and tricks for making the trip a memorable and enjoyable one.
Should You Go Hiking with Kids?
Hiking is no easy feat, even when it’s just you or you and another adult. As an adult, you’re able to take care of your needs. And you probably have some camping experience under your belt.
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When you bring one or more kids along, you have to also consider them and their needs. Even school-aged kids aren’t completely self-sufficient. As such, there are some benefits and risks to hiking with kids.
First, you can bond with your kids. In today’s busy world, family time is precious. If you can share your love of hiking with kids, you can enjoy family time in a new way.
Next, hiking as a family gets all of you outside and moving. Fresh air can do wonders for all of us. And while your infant probably won’t get much exercise, the rest of the family will get some exercise just by hiking.
Another benefit is that hiking is a relatively cheap activity. If you’re doing a day hike, you don’t need to bring much stuff. A day hike is the perfect activity for a staycation.
As great as the benefits are of hiking with kids, there are some risks.
The first risk is that your kids can get hurt. That’s a risk for any hiker, but as an adult, you know to take precautions. A curious kid can trip and fall or get infected by a poisonous plant.
Next, the bigger your party of hikers, the easier it is to get separated. You have to be more observant of everyone on your hike. That can take away from the enjoyment of it.
Basics of Hiking with Kids
If you want to go hiking with kids, there are a few things you need to know. Hiking with kids is a different experience than hiking with adults.
Kids don’t have the experience or know-how to have a successful hike. While that’s certainly not a problem, it does require more planning and effort on your part as the adult.
From extra first aid supplies to child-friendly activities, you want to make sure your hike is as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Before you start hiking with kids, be sure you prepare ahead of time. The more prepared you are for your hike, the less you can focus on the details, and the more you can enjoy the hike.
Staying safe on the trail
Like it or not, hiking can be dangerous. Be it poisonous plants, unclear trail markings, or something else, you have to be vigilant on a hike. Unfortunately, kids don’t always know what to look out for.
To stay safe, make sure you have a fully stocked first aid kit. Your first aid kit should include:
- Alcohol wipes
- Gauze pads
- Gauze roll
- Aspirin (or another pain killer)
- Emergency blanket
- Non-latex gloves
In addition to a first aid kit, you should also bring a compass and a map of your hiking trail. Of course, no one wants to get lost on a hike.
But it does happen. If you have a map and compass, it will be easier to make your way back to where you need to be.
You should also give each kid their own pack of supplies in case you get separated. This kit should include a water bottle, snacks, and a whistle so you can find each other. Create a plan for when you get separated, and make sure your kids know what to do in that situation.
Hiking snacks and hydration for kids
After general safety comes nutrition and hydration. Hiking can be grueling, especially for kids on their first hike. You should bring enough food and water for everyone on the hike.
Water is essential for adults and kids alike. To make sure everyone stays hydrated, everyone should start with a full water bottle.
Depending on the length of the hike, you may want to just bring extra water bottles for everyone. But if your hike is longer, it will be more practical to look for water sources on your hike and to use a water filter for refills.
As far as food is concerned, you should bring healthy food. But also bring food that you know your kids will eat. Kids can be picky, and their favorite snack can ensure they will eat and stay nourished on your hike.
Here are some ideas for kid-friendly hiking snacks:
Make sure you have a place for any trash, so you don’t have to leave it on the trail or stick it in the main part of your bag.
Layers upon layers
Hiking can be unpredictable, if only due to the weather. That’s why wearing layers is super important on a hike. As an adult, you probably know this, but you and your kids should dress in layers.
As it warms up, you can take off your outermost layers. And if it cools down, you can add a layer or two.
As you remove your own layers, you can wrap a jacket around your waist or stick it in your backpack. But odds are, a kid probably won’t want to do that even if their backpack is big enough.
That means you need enough space in your backpack to store their extra layers.
Hiking fun and games for kids
While first aid, food, water, and clothes are essential for any hike, kids also need something fun. You can bring travel-friendly games, or you can make up your own games as you hike.
While you don’t want to encourage your kids to run off, you could turn the hike into a scavenger hunt. Have them identify plants and animals they see. Sing songs or make up your own song.
To keep kids interested and from getting tired, make sure you keep the hike short.
If you can plan for it, choose a trail with frequent stops. You can use those to take breaks or play a game.
Whatever you do, you want to keep things fun and enjoyable for the kids. Of course, you need to reinforce safety and hydration. However, don’t be afraid to let your kids explore or even use the map and direct the hike.
Things to Consider While Hiking With Kids
Hiking with kids can be a great way to bond and get outdoors. However, you do have more things to consider when hiking with kids than with adults
You have to cater to your kids’ needs, not just your own. That can mean carrying their jackets or water bottles. You also have to make sure they have healthy snacks to eat.
When hiking with kids, you have to make sure they stay safe and have everything they need. Not only that, but different age groups have their own sets of needs. An infant has different needs than a fourth grader, for example
Here are some things to consider for hiking with kids of different ages.
Hiking with infants
When you go hiking with an infant, it’s pretty much just you hiking. Before you head out on a hike with an infant, make sure you have these essentials:
- A comfortable child carrier
- A sun hat with a wide brim
- If on formula, enough extra formula for the hike
- A clean water bottle for extra water
- Waste bags for used diapers
Along with these essential items, make sure you use the child carrier before your hike to get your child acclimated. You should also consider your infant’s sleep schedule since the motion of hiking can help them fall asleep.
Finally, make sure you avoid extreme weather since infants can have trouble regulating their body temperature.
Hiking with toddlers
When hiking with a toddler, they might walk for part of the hike. However, you should also be prepared to carry them. At this age, kids might want to explore the area a bit.
It’s also a great age to give your kids their own backpack or safety pack. Their pack should have:
- A fun water bottle
- Extra socks
- Lightweight jacket
- Carrier (for up to 40 pounds)
When hiking with toddlers, you should also stay on top of where you are on the trail. If your kid gets tired, you’ll have to carry them back the rest of the way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
Hiking with school-aged children
Once your kid reaches elementary school, they’re ready to hike on their own. However, you should still keep an eye on them.
Your kid should always be able to see you and vice versa, and they should have a safety whistle in case you get separated.
At this age, your hiking destination should have something for them to do, like skip rocks or climb onto something. That will keep them excited to reach the end of the trail.
School-aged kids are also old enough to do some of the planning with you. They can help you choose the trail, and you can take them shopping for a new backpack.
You also want to make sure they stay engaged on a hike. Have them count the animals or plants you see, and look for spots to take breaks for snacks or water.
Fun for the Family
Hiking with kids can be tricky, but it can be a great family bonding activity. It gets the whole family outdoors for some fresh air. Kids old enough to walk can also get some physical activity.
At first, hiking with kids can seem intimidating — you have a lot more to focus on than just yourself. However, it can be very rewarding to see your kids form a love of nature and hiking.
You can share your passion for hiking with your kids, and that’s worth the extra planning.
Have you gone hiking with kids? How was your experience? Leave a comment below!
|About the author: Shannon is a writer at Green and Growing. She enjoys spending her time in the great outdoors, mostly camping and hiking. She likes to focus on the perks of green living and strives to reduce her carbon footprint to preserve this earth and all it’s beauty. She continues to write about her outdoor experiences and how she takes steps towards sustainability.|