Do you love hiking but now you have kids? Have no fear! You don’t have to abandon the joy of the trails just because you have little ones. Kids naturally love the outdoors and are drawn to wide open spaces, so why not take them along the next time you want to follow your favorite trail? Kids, of course, always require some careful consideration, but with a little planning you can be prepared so that your kids can be taught how to hike the correct way and actually enjoy it too!
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In a world full of high tech kids, pulling them away to “walk down a path outside” can be a trying task, but with the right planning and techniques, your kids can learn to love the trails as much as you do. Hiking can not only be a fantastic way to learn about nature and the world around us, it’s an even better way to gather the whole family together to be outdoors, away from the screens, and do an activity that’s great for our bodies and spirits! One of the secrets to getting your kids to love a simple task such as hiking, is to get them involved and invested in it- along with being prepared. Here are some tips that will make hiking fun for you, as well as your kids!
1. Pack Smart
This is a given with kids anywhere you go, but even more so when you are out in nature. Being prepared on a hike is the difference between having a fun time and the worst time ever. Make sure you set off on your hike with some essentials so you can be ready and not let a small event stand in your way of a good time!
Hiking Essentials with Kids
- Plenty of water
- Pack the right snacks: nuts, dried berries, granola bars, string cheese, fruit, trail mix (especially with some chocolates thrown in!), or crackers are all good choices that will rebuild lost energy as you go
- Hand wipes
- First aid kit
- Map or GPS
- Hats for sun coverage
- Bug spray
Hiking with Little Ones? Consider a Backpack Carrier!
Do you have an infant or toddler you need to carry, or a young child who tires easily? Save your arms and consider investing in a sturdy child carrier backpack like the Thule Sapling or Thule Sapling Elite to make carrying them (and your essentials) a breeze! These amazing, lightweight carriers can comfortably hold your child from 16 pounds all the way up to 48 pounds!
The great thing about a structured child carrier backpack like the Thule Sapling is that it keeps your child up high so they can enjoy the view, while also allowing a little bit of breathing room between your bodies for a more comfortable journey. The weight of the backpack and your child is comfortably supported on your hips so that very little tension is placed on your shoulders.
Along with adding ease and comfort to any hike, here are some of the features we absolutley love about the Thule Sapling:
- Fully adjustable hip and back panel so that the carrier can be comfortably worn by any body type – and easily switched between mom and dad mid-hike
- Mesh pockets, large zippered compartments and smaller, easily accessible hip belt pockets make carrying your essentials a breeze
- A pop-out sunshade shields your precious cargo from harmful UV rays and helps keep them cool
- Your child is easily loaded in from the top or side of the carrier
- Breathable back panel provides comfort and support for you while also allowing air to circulate and keep you cooler
- Removable foot stirrups for older children to rest their legs and easily adjust themselves mid-hike
- Weighs under 8 pounds!
In addition to all of these amazing features, the Thule Sapling Elite (which you can purchase at a slightly higher price than the Sapling) also boasts:
- An adorable removable backpack that can be worn separately or as part of the child carrier
- Roomier hip pockets which are perfect for carrying snacks and toys to pass back to your little hiking partner
- A “rearview mirror” which is stored in the hip pocket that you can pull out to monitor your child at any time
Seriously, if you want to get out and moving on the trails this summer, we highly recommend Thule’s line of child carrier backpacks. You’ll love the convenience and your little one will love the ride.
2. Pick the right trail
For at least the first few times you head out, be sure to select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous – remember that for kids, the hike is about the experience. Picking a trail that has some features – like by a lake, stream, or waterfall – will keep kids occupied and give them a goal to reach. And remember, it’s about the journey not the destination. If your child is more interested in getting down on his or her hands and knees to explore the ground, that’s ok too! Remember, there will always be another time.
3. Dress for success
The key to dressing kids for hiking is simple. Think: layers, layers, layers! Depending on where you live and what season it is, consider taking some extra clothing in case your child gets chilled while out on the trail. If you live in a place where it rains, think of packing some simple and light rain clothes – just in case! Most importantly, make sure your kids have adequate hiking shoes or sneakers, depending on the terrain this could range from sandals to hiking boots. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to pack a change of clothes for each child and leave them in the car for your return from the trail – chances are your children will be wet or muddy!
4. Rotate who’s leader
All kids love feeling like they are in charge! Take advantage of that by having your children take turns leading the hiking group. This allows each child to feel empowered and invested in the hike. By allowing the kids to lead, you can also make sure that the pace is slow enough so that they can all keep up.
GOT TICKS? If you live in a climate with woods, then chances are that ticks could be a real issue for you. Finding a tick on you or your child can be a scary experience, especially with ticks carrying diseases such as Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. However, you don’t have to let the thought of ticks prevent you from enjoying some time outside this summer. By using these simple tips, you can help avoid them- naturally!
- Wear long pants and long sleeves if you can. Also, wearing light colored clothing can help you see ticks before they get to your skin.
- Stay on the trail. Ticks like the overgrown brush, so staying on the trail lessens your chances of getting them.
- Keep long hair tied up and wear a hat if you can.
- Apply a natural bug repellent, such as Sweetly Citron that is kid safe and DEET-free. Or, as an alternative you can try applying a natural citrus repellent (boil citrus peels in water and when it cools, apply it your skin) or use essential oils like rosemary, geranium, basil, cedar, cinnamon, lemon, or lavender with a carrier oil and apply it to your skin.
- Consider carrying along a sticky lint roller and running it along your clothing periodically – or at least after the hike before you get in your car. This way it will pick up any of the pesky critters that may be lurking on you!
- Lastly, make sure to do a tick-check when you get home and wash all clothes in hot water and dry them on hot too. This will prevent the ticks from staying on your clothes long after the hike.
5. Emphasize fun
Adults can hike for the sake of hiking, but kids? Not so much. Keep their interest up by planning on doing something else while you hike. Plan on activities that give your child a purpose to their hike. Things like scavenger hunts (either for items or just a check list) or geocaching allow your kids to have a reason for their journey and will hold their attention further than just walking along a trail.
6. Plan for plenty of breaks
When hiking with kids, you know you will need to plan to stop often for water and snack breaks. Sometimes just tossing rocks in the water or relaxing by a river reading a short book is enough to reenergize everyone. It’s important to take some time to stop and listen to the birds, look for wild life and smell the trees.
7. Resize your expectations
Let your kids set the pace when you head out. You may not cover as much ground as you thought, but you’ll have a more relaxing hike if you’re not trying to drag reluctant kids up the trail in an effort to log miles. Know that this is more about the experience as a family than about how far you go.
Hiking is an activity that is beneficial to the mind and the body. It allows one to experience and get close to nature all while getting in some exercise and fresh air. Kids can often be reluctant to try something that doesn’t have a purpose, so by allowing them to be involved in the process and having small and frequent goals for them, they can learn to love hiking for just what it is and may even be one day telling you to keep up.