Hiking with kids is a lot different than a hike intended for the grown folks. Kids have shorter legs, shorter attention spans (in some cases), and they tire easier than their larger counterparts. So, hiking with kids is more about the journey than the destination; it should be fun for them. Hiking with your children is a great opportunity to create some quality family time and enjoy nature.
Understand Kids’ Limits
Hiking with younger ones means toning it way down. They have different needs than adults and much shorter legs. Consider the pace of the hike and the amount of time you’ll spend on the trail. Some trails have short loops that are great for kids.
Make the Hike Fun
Children are not as easily satisfied by the solitude and silence of nature as adults can be, so it’s important to emphasize the fun aspects of hiking. In addition to playing games or creating scavenger hunts, geocaching is a particularly good way to keep them engaged. You can also rename the activity to something more fun than hiking like adventure, expedition, treasure hunt or safari. Something else that can enhance the experience is allowing the kids to bring friends along for the hike.
A successful kids hike is a safe one. One thing to make sure of is to dress your kids in some quality hiking clothes. You can find what you need from a trusted outfitter like Carhartt. Make sure you have a first aid kit, bug spray, extra socks, a change of clothes, extra rations, and don’t forget the wipes. Kids get really, dirty really fast. You can implement a buddy system and give them whistles. Create a signal that will let everyone know if someone gets separated from the group. This will create some peace of mind for you, and the kids will feel empowered.
Create the Optimum Hike
It’s best to go out early when they’re not tired or distracted. If you can wear them out on the trail, they might be more inclined to go home and take an afternoon nap and give you a break. Take plenty of food and water. Kids (and adults) get hungry, and snacks can prevent everyone from getting “hangry.” Bring some trail maps for the kids and make sure everyone’s on the same page about where you’re headed. It helps to find trails with interesting features like waterfalls, caves, or overlooks. Kids will appreciate those little extras.
Now you and the kids are ready to go find some buried treasure or discover a new species of bug. Happy hiking!