Are you one of those who love to spend some quality time in the woods? Do you get the adrenaline rush in climbing the hills and hiking the trails for a first-hand experience of nature? If you answered these questions in the affirmative, then you have lived a life that many will be envious of. But wait! Has the birth of your child changed the answer to these questions? It shouldn’t because hiking with your family or especially hiking with kids is fun as well.
Being blessed with a kid is undoubtedly the best moment for any couple. But do not let this happiness fade your passion and vigor for hiking. Instead, celebrate their first hike just as you celebrated their first walk, first word, and every first milestone of their life. You will cherish the memories earned in nature’s lap for a lifetime. As William Wordsworth has said, and rightly so,
“ Let Nature be your teacher .”
The serenity of wilderness and the freshness of nature coupled with the challenges of climbing up slope or controlling the speed down slope, closely echo our life cycle. Early exposure to hiking can make your child grow into a better individual aware of the contours of life and capable of handling both the up slope and the down slope of life.
You can begin hiking with your kids when they are as young as 6 months if you keep the following important tips. Make your hiking adventure with your nipper an experience worth thousand photos and gather memories beyond words.
Hiking with Kids: How to go about it Age-Wise?
Hiking with Infants (0-2 years)
Since you will have to carry the child throughout the hike, so the first question is how to carry them. Invest in a good baby carrier. Use the carrier for some time before the hike so that the child gets used to it. Until your tot turns 6 months old, he/she should be swaddled in front; later on, you can graduate to a backpack carrier.
Livingit Tips for Hiking with Infants:
- Hike according to the infant’s sleep cycle.
- Keep the hike
- Carry a hat to protect the child from the sun.
- Carry ample diapers.
- Pack separate bottles for milk and water.
Hiking with Toddlers (2-5 years)
By 2 your junior will be walking and running. They do not like to be carried around. Plan the hike with lot of breaks to keep distances short for one stretch so that your child can explore and satisfy his/her adventure buds. Give them freedom and see how quickly they learn the traits of hiking.
Livingit Tips for Hiking with Toddlers:
- Do not buy hiking shoes for kids; sneakers are good enough.
- Pack spare socks, to keep their feet dry and clean.
- Give them a small backpack in which they can keep their jacket and snacks.
- Keep track of the distance because once your overzealous youngster tires out, you need to carry him/her to the finishing line.
- Choose easy, flat, and hazard-free hikes so that you can let loose your kid.
- Kids love to play in the dirt; do not forget to carry extra clothes.
Hiking with Grade-Schoolers (5-12 years)
The child can now easily walk on the rocky track, hop through the puddles, and jump over the fallen trees. You can upgrade the trail and cut short the breaks. Let them lead and set the pace of the hike.
Livingit Tips for Hiking with Grade Schoolers:
- Always keep an eye on your kid.
- Give them a safety whistle.
- Teach them the modus operandi to find their way back if they are lost.
- Give them a water bottle and tell them to stay hydrated.
- Involve them right from the preparation stage.
- Teach them how to read a map.
So, before you hit the trail, you must know a few essentials of hiking with kids, which are a compilation of experiences of parents who have ventured into the woods with their little ones.
Things to Know before Hiking with Kids
Choose the Trail Wisely
The first hiking trip is always very important and special. Choose the trail judiciously. Go for simple and short but attractive trails for the child, such as one with a stream or waterfall. Have minimum expectation from the kid; slowly they will graduate to the next level.
You cannot just wake up one day, pack your bags, and leave for the hike. When hiking with kids, you need to prepare your child for the trail. Induce them with the habit of walking, like an occasional stroll to the local grocery shop or a nearby bakery. This way when they have to walk up the mountain or on a trail, they will be able to walk hand-in-hand and will not lag behind.
Stock Snacks and Treats
Hiking means fun and adventure, and to maintain this definition, keep entertaining your kids with their favorite snacks. Kids need more fuel to hike than adults, and snacks are great motivators for them to keep moving up the trail. Pack easy-to-carry snacks and treats like dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, lollipops, and cakes.
Slow Down and Enjoy the Trip
Kids are inquisitive by nature. Let them explore flora and fauna. Slow down, stop, and let them discover Mother Earth. Take a swim in the swimming holes, smell the flowers, play in the waterfalls, and walk on the bog bridge while hiking with kids. This interaction with nature will deepen their love for hiking.
When hiking with toddlers, it is always good to start early in the morning. Their energy level is the highest around that time of the day and the weather is also in your favor. Moreover, you will not find much crowd. Even if you have to take several stops during the hike, you do not have to worry about the time constraint. If the kids are low on energy then you can also plan for power naps. Starting off early will give you ample of time for this and you can plan your naps effectively.
Always have a Destination in Mind!
Kids are impatient and more often than not they will ask you, “Are we there yet or not?”. They might keep on moving but you can’t drag them along for long. So plan your pit-stops accordingly. You can also find if there are any restaurants or trails with grill pits around so that you can stop there and let your children have a breather.
You can also help yourself by distracting the kids with stories, songs or some game as distractions can work wonders and have the kid forget about the trail and you can you can hope that you reach before your story gets over.
Sleeping is a Task
The technique to make your child sleep varies and so be it. Don’t try anything different just because you are on a hike. However, what you have to adjust with is the sleeping bag or tent – whatever you choose to take along. If you carry a sleeping bag then the kid might wiggle out. So make sure that the child is properly dressed for the weather, in case he wiggles out while sleeping. If you have two kids or more than two while hiking with kids, then tents are a better option.
Pack a first-aid kit
The tots are unpredictable, and when they are outdoors, they can invite trouble. While hiking with kids you must instruct them to walk properly through the tree roots that are popped up and stay safe while you take a dip in the waterfall or swimming hole. Children want to try and explore everything. Be prepared for incidents. Always keep the first-aid kit handy. And do not forget to pack a bug spray and an anti-itch cream.
Let your child lead
Ensure that the kids are involved in the hike. And what better than making them the hiking leader! You will see a change in the energy level of the child as soon as you make him/her in charge of the hike. Their speed and attitude will change completely. Please note if you are hiking with more than one kid, keep changing the leader and assign an important role to each kid. This will keep the hike interesting and exciting.
So now you are fully prepared to pack your bags and set for hiking with kids and experience the joy and excitement.
Read our blog “ How to Select the Best Hiking Backpack ” for tips.
You will be surprised to see what children can do. Their endurance and strength improve with every hike.
Do not let any circumstances in your life dictate your love for hiking. Most importantly, bring a part of you, your kid, under the fold of your love for hiking, to make them understand its importance and the fun associated with it. Permeate your love for hiking to your children and gift them with lessons and memories to relish forever.
Trust me it is pure bliss to see your child go an extra mile to make it to the finishing line. Do not impose limitations; give them an open space and they will outshine your records. And we would love to read about your experience of hiking with kids. With your know-how, you can surely inspire countless other couples with children!