Hiking has many benefits for older family members, but it does also have many benefits for the kids.
Hiking with children isn’t as hard as people make out if you follow some good advice. These tips for hiking with the younger members of the family will make everything easy.
It will differ depending on the children’s ages, but these kids hiking tips will cover each age group, so you can even go hiking with toddlers.
1. Selecting a Kid-Friendly Hiking Trail
When you are searching for your hike, you need to take into consideration your children’s limits.
While they are more than capable of doing any hike for their age and their ability, kids love to arrive at a destination that has something for them to see.
While a loop trail can be ideal, there is no sense of adventure when you arrive back at your car. This doesn’t mean you need to take them to the Grand Canyon, although there are kid-friendly hikes there.
A good example being The Smoky Mountains. Here there are lots for kids to explore, as there is a long history of Native Americans in the area.
There are the many Rocky Mountains, and some are the highest east of the Mississippi River.
However, most of the trails come with minimal elevation gain, and the trails follow creek beds, meadows, and they are all child-friendly distances.
Hike lengths for kids follow these recommendations.
- Ages 0-2 – Your child will be carried, so it will be up to you how far you can walk with them.
- Ages 3-6 – A round trip of between one and two-and-a-half miles.
- Age 7-10 – three and a half miles round trip with a good stop-off point on the way. At this age, kids should be full of energy but will falter at some stage.
2. Take Lots of Water and Snacks
For the entire family, you will need to take plenty of water. Kids, though, can take their own water bottles.
The recommended amount is one liter per mile, but for kids, this may be too heavy for them to carry.
You can also get them their own kids’ hiking pack. This does need to be kid-size, but it gives them a sense of responsibility when carrying some of their own gear.
You can stuff their own snacks such as pretzels, a bag of trail mix to keep their energy up without them needing to keep asking.
A couple of things you can give them to carry with their own water and snacks are a safety whistle and their own first aid kit.
For older children, if they cut themselves, they may tend to this with their own antibiotic cream and Band-Aid. (Read How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn)
A tube of sunscreen and other sun protection is advised, along with a lightweight rain jacket.
3. Keep Their Minds Occupied
One of the things that can stop a kid from wanting to go too far down hiking trails is boredom.
You can let them lead the way. This means everyone will be going at their pace. This may not be enough, so along the way, it is better to play games as you walk along.
Once kids don’t think so much about walking, they will be happier and will keep going. If they want to stop, you can use the stop for lunch or a snack, or if you know there is a good focal point of a waterfall or a lake, then you can head there.
One game that can be useful as you are hiking is a scavenger hunt. This can be enough to keep their minds occupied, and it is good for everyone to join in as you head further on your family hike. Geocaching is another fun activity, but this does need a mobile phone.
There are hidden treasures everywhere by geo-cachers. Kids love searching for these, and all you need to do when they find one is to leave something for the next person.
4. Take Lots of Breaks
Young children will want to stop on quite a few occasions. This is where you can find locations that will perk their interest.
You can also use these times to teach them how to use a map and compass or leave no trace.
Depending on their age, they won’t be aware of the impact of leaving refuse or rubbish lying around on the environment. If you use these times at interesting places, you can have lunch.
Areas like the ones in the Smokies have exhibits and museums you can visit as you stop off for lunch. Picking hikes like this can be educational for all the family.
5. Selecting the Right Clothing
A lot of tips are all about having fun when family hiking. Much of this comes in the first four tips, and making sure your children are comfortable is more important than a laugh and a giggle.
Because children won’t be used to walking so far in one go, their feet will take some abuse. You will need to get them a good hiking shoe so their feet can take the slight punishment, and there will be no signs of blisters.
They will also need light clothes for them to carry, and won’t make them sweat too much. Feeling uncomfortable can be one of the biggest turnoffs of hiking for kids.
When you look at all these tips, there is nothing difficult about taking children along.
If you concentrate on the fun aspect at every stage, they will have their minds occupied, and the lessons they learn can be with them all the way through their lives.