How to hike with kids
Kids love hiking. The freedom, the exploration and hiking with kids can be a blast. Hiking with kids is fun. Really! So when you think about hiking with kids, it doesn’t always have to be all that bad or even difficult it can actually be really fun. We have been hiking as a family now for over two years full-time on the road.
Hiking with kids
It is usually easy to hike with kids as you won't have to carry them on your back or in your hands as often. They are usually willing to walk a long way and keep up with you. Hiking is great for kids as it gives them more of the kind of exercise they need. Hiking also allows kids to get some fresh air, be outside in nature and spend time outdoors unplugged and away from electronics. Hiking with kids is a fun chance to bond with your little one out in nature without much distraction.
You can teach your child about hiking by talking about the wildlife that you see, what plants to look for and how they are different than other plants they will usually see like around the house. Hiking will allow them to get their energy out and be active before bedtime so there might not even be any fights over screen time later on! hiking isn't just good for their physical health, but also helps boost their immune system.
Kids hike for fun
Kids hike for fun and not necessarily for hiking as an exercise, so while hiking with kids you are going to want to keep this in mind. Where hiking trails allow it, feel free to let them run around and play on the trail rather than hiking at a steady pace.
What makes a good hike with kids?
There are some simple things you can follow to make hiking more enjoyable for kids. Below you will find out all you need to know to help you make hiking enjoyable for kids.
Choose the right hike for kids
You never want to choose a hike that is too long when your kid is just starting out. Choose one that is about a half mile and has hiking trails with some hills but not too many steep inclines. It's best to have hiking guides for kids aged 9 or above because hiking is still a new adventure for them so they might need some help along the way at first.
If your kids are younger, choose hiking trails that have nature like trees, rocks, streams and not much traffic in terms of people walking their dogs. You don't want to make hiking more difficult than it has to be, it should be fun! If you take these things into consideration when planning your hike you will have successful hiking excursions as a family.
Kids love snacks on hiking day
Have a plan ahead of time for everything from lunch to bathroom breaks . Make sure they have enough snack to keep them busy on the trail or while they take a break. One good trick to make them feel very independent on their hike is to let them bring their own snack in a backpack. This will allow them to feel independent and in control of a situation they are likely to be nervous about. Snacks are also important because hiking for kids can get tiring, so provide them with enough energy, but not too much that they become sugar high and then crash halfway through their hike when the sugar wears off or has been processed by their bodies. Also make sure that you have extra snacks on hand, kids burn through calories fast and if they don't have anything else to munch on they might start to fuss.
Keep kids hydrated
Hiking will definitely dehydrate your kids if you do not bring enough water. Pack hiking water bottles and make sure they drink continuously. This will also help them to be less cranky during the hike because of feeling tired and hungry. Make sure your kids eat a full meal before hiking as well otherwise it can lead to a grump experience. Bring enough water to last more than a day.
Dress for success
Whenever you go hiking, you need to think about the type of clothes you will need to wear. If hiking is in the morning or evening, it tends to get very cold. We have seen kids hiking with shorts on even during winter hiking. Make sure you keep them warm and dress appropriately for the type of hiking that you will be doing. If you leave early in the morning or late at night, the temperature may drop quite low so make sure you give them clothes that will keep them warm.
If you will be hiking during the summer months, give them clothes that will be appropriate for hiking in the heat. Hiking boots will keep their feet protected from rocks and other debris that may be on hiking trails.
Hiking shoes should fit well without socks!
Have hiking shoes that your kids will be comfortable hiking in. Hiking shoes should be functional as well as cute which is why choosing the right one for your child is important. You don't want your kid hiking in shoes that is too loose or too tight. Any of these situations will make hiking uncomfortable for kids. A hiking shoe that fits your child well will make hiking much easier and more fun for both you and your little one.
A shoe that has a soft and comfortable soul is best as it will provide the protection hiking requires. Waterproof hiking shoes are a great option for kids especially if you live in an area where it rains a lot or during wet seasons. We have found hiking shoes that work really well for our family on Amazon.
When you hike near waterfalls you might want to bring hiking socks just in case as most hiking shoes are not waterproof and can therefore become damp after walking by an area with water nearby. This is also good information to know when picking the right hiking shoe for your child.
Hiking Poles Helps
If using hiking poles, make sure that they fit your child properly before leaving on the hike. You do not want to have your child use a hiking pole that is too long or too short. A hiking pole will make hiking much easier for kids. If you live somewhere with more snow then hiking poles will come in handy and they are definitely a must if you have children hiking with you that are young enough to need the extra support.
The first thing that comes to mind when hiking with kids would have to the right hiking gear for kids. Try to make hiking fun for the entire family, but some hiking activities just aren't as easy for little ones. If your child is small (less than 6 years old), hiking poles will help them get up hills and rocky areas because they use their arms more effectively than normal walking.
Check out travel hiking poles on Amazon for great choices!
What about the weather?
You have to be prepared for anything when you are about to go hiking with kids. Be extra prepared by checking the weather in the location you plan on hiking. If it is going to be snowy or rainy you will want to make sure the hiking equipment that you pack for your kids has a way to keep them warm and dry. You can't always predict what mother nature will throw at you so be prepared by making sure on the hike you are prepared with hiking gear that works well in all weather conditions.
Hike as often as possible
Try not to only hike when you feel like. Try to make it a weekly or monthly thing to have your kids hiking. This will keep hiking fun and exciting and not something that feels gloom or a chore to do. Schedule hiking as an event in your calendar so that you are able to hike regularly with kids or hiking partners (your friend's parents or grandparents). A great way for hiking partners to interact with your kids is by making sure they bring their grandkids hiking on a regular basis. This will get your kids excited to reunite with kids they met on the last hike.
Bring First Aid
It is very important to be prepared for anything that might happen while you and your kids are out on a trail. Bring bandaids, kids hiking first aid kit, insect/tick repellent, sunscreen and pain reliever. You never know when you might need something and not having these will definitely weigh down your hiking experience. Here is a full list of items you should bring a first aid:
- List of emergency phone numbers
- Adhesive tape
- Adhesive bandages (Band-Aids) in several sizes
- Antiseptic solution (like hydrogen peroxide)
- Sterile gauze pads of different sizes
- A splint
- Antiseptic wipes
- Alastic bandage
- Extra prescription medicines (if the family is going on vacation)
- Hydrocortisone cream (1%)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Safety pins
- Acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- Sharp scissors
- Calamine lotion
- Alcohol wipes or ethyl alcohol
- Disposable instant cold packs
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- A blanket
- Plastic non-latex gloves (at least 2 pairs)
Plan to Stop To Let Your Kids Explore
This is very important because hiking for kids is by no means hiking for adults. The speed of hiking is much slower and you should not expect your kids to hike without getting tired at any point. Making sure that you are hiking at a pace where they can have time to explore their surroundings will make this hiking experience more enjoyable. They need time to climb on rocks, get down on the ground and really enjoy nature so be prepared to stop when needed.
Be Prepared For Slower Pace
Another thing that you must account for in hiking with kids is neither yours nor theirs hiking speeds but rather the overall hiking trail’s speed limit. Again this will be much slower as there are numerous areas along the hiking trail where your kids are likely going to want to stop and do things like pick flowers or inspect rocks. Allow them to do all this as they will enjoy the hike more with these little freedoms they get.
Give Your Kids Responsibilities
Kids love when they are given responsibilities. They will want to carry their own hiking stick and hiking bag. Upon arriving at the hiking trail you may be met with a bit of whining but giving them these responsibilities will allow them to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Let them lead the way and ask them questions like "how much farther are we going?". Let them feel like they are in charge, it will build their confidence and stamina for hiking longer hikes later on.
I hope this article has shown you that hiking with your kids is not only a great way to spend quality time together, but it can also be an important part of their physical and mental development. Your little ones will enjoy them as much (if not more!) than you do. And when they are older, the memories from those hikes will stay with them for life. That's something worth looking forward to!
Kids enjoy going on hikes and exploring the outdoors. What are you waiting for? Get outside, get fit and have fun with your kids today!