Welcome back spring! As the weather changes and warmer temperatures show up the abundance of outdoor activities increases, I am always thrilled to get back to nature and hit my favorites hiking trails. And now that my son is older (he just turned eight in March) he is eager and excited to go “into the woods” with me. Hiking with kids can be a lot of fun and is a favorite fun outdoor family activity for us.
Benefits of Hiking With Kids
Of course there are a lot of great reasons why hiking with your children is a great thing to do. First and foremost, it is great exercise and we can always encourage our kids to be more active. Also, it’s a great way to explore nature and to learn about plants and bugs and birds and everything else that might crawl, walk, or fly. Plus it is a very cool way to bring out the inner “Indiana Jones” in children young and old! Who knows what adventures and escapades you and your young ones can find once you hit the trail.
Hiking With Kids Requires A Little Preparation
But we all know that there are a few dangers that come along with that adventure and we need to make sure the entire family is prepared before we head off into the wild – or even into the local wooded park. Here are a few basic tips for hiking with kids that you should always keep in mind.
5 Tips For Hiking With Kids
Remember To Wear The Right Shoes, Clothes and, Protective Gear.
Dress for the elements and the terrain. If you are headed over rocky, rugged trails normal running shoes or sneakers won’t work. Get specific trail shoes or hiking boots. Headed into some heavy brush? Think about long sleeves or pants and maybe even gloves.
Layers are very important when you’re hiking so make sure your child has clothes they can take off. As you move and walk your core temperature rises, the muscles move and your blood pumps faster so you they will get hot eventually. Make sure they have their own little backpacks where they’ll be able to store them. This will teach them they are responsible for their own hiking packs and supplies. Always remember a hat and sunglasses to protect against bugs and sun.
Speaking of sun… Don’t Forget The Sunscreen.
Even on overcast days, the sun is still getting through and no one wants to start off their first spring hike with a nasty sunburn. Also, don’t forget the insect repellant and maybe even a first aid kit. Keep in mind all the possible dangers, big and small… bug bites and stings, plants that may cause rashes and allergic reactions (I am very familiar with poison ivy!) and exposure heat, wind, water, and/or cold.
Map and Plan Your Route Accordingly.
Don’t take the six year old on a five mile trek with a 500 foot elevation change! All that will happen is that they will get tired and frustrated and you will end up with a 50 pound load on your shoulders. Been there, done that, got the back and neck ache! Instead pick trails and hikes that are suitable for the entire family – and that will be FUN for everyone. Leave your Himalaya excursions and mountain goat practice for a solo day.
Also remember how quickly nature can change. Winter run-off and eroded rocks are two of the biggest causes of hiking related injuries. A stream that you may have been able to walk across in August may be twice as deep in April, May or June. In the spring, streams and creeks are usually higher, faster, and colder. Keep the little ones away from running water and the loose rocks and boulders on the edge of the water.
There is no sense in doing things in a hurry. This is not a race so give yourself a day to explore and wander around and never rush things. Hiking is about the journey, not the destination so make sure you have enough time to enjoy every aspect of what you see and experience. Besides your kids will want to see everything they can as they are naturally more curious than you are about the world. Keep hiking fun!
Keep The Cell Phone Handy and Charged.
No, not so junior can play Minecraft or little missy can text her BFF. The GPS on your phone can be a life saver (maybe even literally) if you get lost in the woods and, in the case of an emergency or injury, a simple phone call could save the day. It is necessary for hiking safety.
Finally, Don’t Forget The Water and The Snacks.
Hiking will use up a lot of the energy of your kids. They will get unhappy as you drag them along with you and for that reason you should take breaks as frequently as you must. You can keep them motivated by working with water, food and even stories. Set the break area ahead of time like “when we make it to the top of that hill” or something similar so they can prepare for it.
You and the kiddos will get thirsty and water fountains don’t usually pop up in the middle of the woods. Bring a water bottle for everyone and don’t forget a healthy snack. Energy bars not only give you a much needed boost of power but they can also help a bad mood turn around pretty quickly!
Hiking is a wonderful exercise that helps build fitness, discipline while promoting a love for nature that blossoms over the years. Although kids will be reluctant to go at first as it is a demanding and difficult experience you can still show them the good sides of the outdoor world. Whether you do this during the spring, summer or fall they will enjoy a wonderful time as they learn more about what they can find outside. Planning an event like that might seem stressful at first, however you need to remember small steps are what counts with kids. Teaching them to appreciate nature will have a positive effect on the future generations.
I hope you found these tips for hiking with kids useful. Now get outside, work up a little sweat, and get your hike on. Have fun!
Rob Youngblood is an Emmy Award Winning TV Host, Men’s Life and Style Expert, Keynote Speaker, Writer, and A Guy Who Talks for a Living! Learn more about him at youngbloodlifeandstyle.com/. You can also follow him on Twitter.