Hiking is one of my all-time favorite summer activities. Sure, it's really just walking outside with better shoes, but it gets you out in nature and -- depending on the level of difficulty -- also gets you and the family out in the woods, enjoying the fresh air.
Kids love hiking, but they also have some special considerations before you hit the trail. It's always smart to start slow on relatively flat, two-hour or less hikes that don't require much skill or climbing. Help them break in their shoes and get used to it before breaking out the big guns and going on half-day or even full-day treks.
You will want to be well-prepared, so with that in mind, here are 7 tips for hiking with kids:
- Read: Check out the series Best Hikes With Children or other good hiking books that consider what children will bring to the activity and then pick your hike accordingly. It isn't fun to be in the middle of a hike before you realize it's too steep or difficult for little feet to traverse. Have a game plan.
- Carriers: If you have little, little ones, then you probably want a carrier that will help them make the trek without having to walk too much, but also put little stress on your back. The ones that double as gear carriers are the best, in my opinion.
- Safety: Obviously you will need sunscreen and bug spray, but you will also need a first-aid kid that includes rubbing alcohol swabs, bandages, and gauze, among other things. When hiking with kids, expect boo-boos.
- Foods: Make sure to pack many, many kid-friendly snacks that are high in protein and carbs.
- Drinks: Also a must, each child must have his or her own water bottle. Dehydration is a big no-no.
- Clothing: Be on top of expected weather conditions before you head out the door. Children are more prone to cold, especially if they get wet. Have an extra change of warm clothes on hand. Make sure their shoes still fit, though not too loose, and that they have plenty of support. Also make sure they have synthetic socks pulled high to avoid bug bites.
- Games: Kids get bored, that is their best talent. So keep things interesting with hiking games or goal setting. "If we make it to that tree up ahead, we can have some of our trail mix!" and things like that. Keep it fun.
How do you keep hiking with kids fun?