The summer hiking season is well underway, but thankfully far from being over. It has been encouraging to see so many families out on the trails with kids of all ages in tow.
While it’s always important to be well-prepared when hitting the trails, it’s even more crucial when kids are involved. Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe and happy as they explore the great outdoors.
Choose Your Route Wisely
It’s great to challenge kids and they are often capable of more than we give them credit for, but remember—they’re still kids. Very young kids and very steep terrain can be a dangerous combination, particularly on the descent when legs are feeling like jelly.
When choosing a trail, keep it shorter if it’s particularly challenging and be willing to take your time. Kids will enjoy longer hikes if there are exciting elements along the way to explore, like suspension bridges, any kind of water, or cool natural features. Be willing to drop the idea that there is an “ultimate destination” (like a mountain peak) to reach– remember, it’s all about the journey.
For experienced hikers, packing enough food and water is a no-brainer. Teach your little ones to think the same. Younger children might need to be reminded to drink their water, so be sure to have hydration breaks at frequent intervals.
Bring along some snacks that you know your kids will eat. They’re going to need some fuel along the way, so it may not be the best time to experiment with drastically new foods.
The right pair of shoes can make a huge difference—don’t be sending your kids out in a pair of flip flops (it happens more often than you’d think!).
Properly fitting shoes are an absolute must when it comes to safety and comfort (and, consequently, lack of whining). Remember, kids’ feet grow like weeds, so make sure the shoes fit properly.
Appropriate clothing is also a must, with outdoor activity-friendly fabrics like wool, synthetics or fleece being infinitely better than cotton. Consider holding swaps or sales with your other outdoorsy friends with children to save money on gear that will be quickly outgrown.
Keep Your Eyes Open
Always keep an eye on your kids while you’re on a hike. Position them so that there is always an adult ahead of them and behind them. Teach them to stick to the trail, not only for safety, but to avoid damaging the environment around them.
Not every child is going to greet every hike with an upbeat attitude and endless enthusiasm. If your kid is getting antsy on a hike, consider incorporating some games to make it fun. Read up on geocaching ahead of time to bring in a treasure hunt element, or create a bingo board or check list of items to identify along the hike.
If all else fails, revert to the classics, like I Spy.
Teach Those Young Grasshoppers
By bringing your children out to enjoy nature, you’re already priming them to be adventurous, nature-loving citizens—awesome!
Take it a step further by teaching them about safety and proper planning. Find age appropriate ways to get them involved, whether it’s allowing them to pack some of their own gear or discussing safety around animals or poisonous plants.
When it’s all said and done, congratulate yourself on getting your kids outside, active, and excited about the natural world around them.