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How to Master the Tough Task of Hiking with Kids

Hiking kid
Flickr/ChrisNation

Love being outdoors? Got kids? How do you convince your kids to enjoy the great outdoors as much as you do?

So you’ve got kids, and now think that your hiking lifestyle is over, right? Wrong. While there is no denying that taking your kids into the backcountry is going to be tough, it’s also the perfect time to create some wonderful family times that you can all cherish together.

If you were an avid hiker before children, the idea of hiking for you probably meant covering a large number of miles, seeing how far you could go or summiting a number of peaks in one day. With children, though, you will need to change your goals whether that regards to mileage, destination or the environment.

Planning

In essence, before hiking with your children you will need to get your head into the ‘hiking with kids’ zone first. For most children, the journey is what is important to them and now how long the journey is, so they will force you to be flexible and to alter what your accomplishments are.

Be patience and flexible – You won’t hit a pace that’s as fast as you would go without kids, and you’ll likely need to slow to a stop at times to help explain things to them. If you see a small animal darting across the trail you’re on, be prepared to stop, answer questions and watch for that animal to make another move.

Adjust your goals – While you may have a goal in mind, it’s worth pointing out that you might not actually reach it, whether that’s reaching the end of a trail section or walking a mile. It’s important for you to adjust the hike to the comfort of your children so they can get the most fun out of it.

Dress properly – Before heading out the door, check the weather and see what weather changes are likely to take place. If children get caught in the rain they will stay colder for longer, so make sure you pack extra warm clothes for them.

flickr/Chris Frank
flickr/Chris Frank

Choosing a Destination

When it comes to hiking there is so much to explore and discover along the way, making it the perfect activity for children to get involved in at a young age.

Somewhere close to home – For your first few hikes, you might want to keep it close to home so you can easily manage any hiccups along the way. If there is not a trail nearby, why not explore your city or your nearby park instead?

Make it fun – For children, the views aren’t necessarily what interests them at such a young age. Instead, they might be interested in seeing a waterfall or a lake. Have a cool feature at the end of the hike that they’ll remember and talk about when the hike is over. It’ll be a great motivator to get back out and see more.

Choose an interesting trail – A trail that has interesting features along the way will keep your kids interested and eager to stay outdoors for as long as possible.

Get outside – Even if it’s just to the garde,n get your children outside to explore and see what they can find. This will translate and get their exploring skills on the go when you go hiking with them.

flickr/Victoria J Baxter
flickr/Victoria J Baxter

More from Wide Open Spaces:

How to Orient Yourself With a Map and Compass

The Benefits of Hiking Make You Healthier and Happier

6 Tips for Staying Warm When Winter Camping

Preparing for a Hike

A good hike is one that appeals to your child’s sense of adventure, and for them every trail will have a sense of adventure involved.

Get them involved – To include your children in your family hike, get them involved as to where they would like to go. Have them look at the map, pick the correct clothing and arrange the food for your rest stops during the day. Provide them with their own daypack that comes with an emergency whistle, compass, first aid kit and rain jacket. Show them how to use the gear they have while on the trail in case of an emergency, so they are clued in on what to do.

Be on their level – As mentioned above, for many children, it’s the journey that is more important rather than how long the journey is. As they are closer to the ground and slower, you need to take the time to get on their level and look at the world through their inquisitive eyes.

Have plenty of rest stops – Their legs are not as strong so they will need time to rest, which is also a good time to ask them questions or answer any of theirs about what they have enjoyed the most from the day. This is a great time to be rewarded by some yummy trail snacks.

Look for discoveries – Bring a magnifying glass with you and go exploring for wildlife as you search for animal tracks, bird holes, or frogs in a pond.

They may not be climbing mountains just yet, but by working your way up, you can enjoy this family time together where you can take real joy in rediscovering nature on your children’s level.

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How to Master the Tough Task of Hiking with Kids