Memorial Day is a great day to set out on a new trail with the family. Years ago, when my husband and I wanted to go for a hike, we’d grab our hiking shoes, water bottle, two granola bars and a camera and head out the door. 12 years and three children later, things are not quite the same when we get the itch to hike. Hiking with children takes more foresight and planning but can be thrilling in its own way. It is a great way to bond together as a family and encourage exploration. Happy trails…..
Pick a trail and location that is easy to get to • It is always better to finish your hike more quickly than you had planned as opposed to getting five miles in and realizing that you will need to trek back with a tired, tantrumming child.
Talk to your family about safety in the woods before you head out • Give some simple rules such as, “no running” and “always keep in sight of me”. • For longer hikes, you might give your children their own small pack with a snack , some water, and an extra layer. • Refer to the HUG-A-TREE Program. It is a great place to start talking to your family about how to stay safe if you get lost in the woods.
Bring a First Aid Kit • Include things such as children’s Tylenol, band-aid, tweezers, antibacterial hand cleaner, antiseptic ointment, a cold pack, cotton balls, elastic-roll bandage, gauze pads, lip protector, calamine lotion, sunscreen, moleskin (for blisters), scissors or pocketknife, sterile wipe and tissues.
Let your children set the pace • Your little one probably takes three steps for your one step. On uneven terrain, it is especially important to be aware of this fact. • Be aware of their energy and attitude and follow their lead • Be patient when they stop and ask questions or make observations
Consider that “life is a journey, not a destination” • Children are slower and closer to the ground. They will probably notice things you may not, as you walk along. Enjoy each step. Many children will like this as much, if not more, than reaching your planned destination.
Pack extra snacks and water • It is essential that your family stays well nourished and hydrated. Stop often to fuel up!
Make sure everyone is wearing comfortable shoes • No flip flops or dress shoes on the trail
Use a child carrier for your little ones • We have loved using our Kelty Frame Child Carrier. It stands on its own, while you load your little one in. The padded waistbelt is key. We always keep a little mirror in the side pocket so that we can periodically check in on our little one as we walk. • Don’t have one? Check places like Craig’s List and second hand shops. I often see these types of carriers for sale.
Respect nature….Minimize your impact • Before setting out, talk to your family about ways you can respect nature as you hike. Stay on the trail, pick up your trash, leave things as you find them. • Explain to children that many parks have rules against taking home “souvenirs” they find along the trail. Remind them if they find something interesting, others will too. They can observe all they want, but they need to leave things as they found them.
What advice is helpful to you when you hike with your family?
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