Hiking is a popular and enjoyable outdoor activity for all ages. Not to mention it is great exercise! Children like to be active and they love the outdoors. Hiking provides a fantastic way to spend quality time with your family; it is also a wonderful way to teach your children to love and respect nature.
Here are a few tips on hiking with the family:
- Plan your family hike according to the youngest child’s ability.
- Plan to take many breaks – little legs tire easily!
- Start the day with protein snacks such as peanut butter and crackers or cheese, and bring lots to drink; children can get dehydrated easily.
- Play games to encourage children to observe what’s around them. “I Spy” and “20 Questions” are great starters. Have the children look for animal tracks – count rocks, birds, or flowers as you hike. Bring a magnifying glass or binoculars so they can see things up close.
- To motivate the children – build anticipation and excitement around what lies ahead (a waterfall, river or lake).
- Let your child carry their own backpack. It will give them a sense of purpose and engages them in the hike. Be sure to keep it light.
What to Bring
Aside from the obvious (water, snacks, and a small first aid kit) you may also want to bring:
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats.
- Wet wipes and tissues.
- A warm blanket
- Disposable camera – children love to take their own pictures!
- Extra dry clothing and socks
- Check your first aid kit before each trip. Replace missing items (like sterile bandages and latex gloves).
- Ensure children wear appropriate footwear. They don’t need expensive hiking boots – simple running shoes are adequate.
- Children can become chilled faster than adults. Dress them in several light layers, which can be removed as they get warm, or added as they get cold. Bright colours are a good option, so they can be seen easily.
- Keep young children in sight at all times during the hike.
- Older children should be encouraged to stay in sight, or within earshot. A whistle pinned to the outside of their coats is a great idea. Whistles are louder than yelling, and easier to sustain.
- Teach the children the “Stay Put” rule – if they think they are lost, they must stay where they are, and wait for help. Before you leave home, agree on a signal – for example 3 blows on the whistle to indicate “I’m lost” or “I need help.”