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Five Tips for Hiking with Kids
Five Tips for Hiking with KidsApril 25th, 2011 · Nicole
In her first article for randsco.com, guest author Nicole provides five tips for hiking with kids. Just because you have young kids doesn't mean parents have to put away their hiking gear. Hiking with kids is a great way to combine family time, healthy exercise and teaching children about the natural world. Learn more!
Five Tips Help Make Hiking with Kids FUN!
It is definitely heart-warming to see kids bathing in bubbling brooks, climbing over rocks or boulders and appreciating the flora and fauna as they pass them by. Hiking and camping with your own kids is a great way to teach them about the beauty of nature, cooperation and healthy living.
If you’ve been taking your kids on hikes and would like to make it an even better experience (or want to and fear that they'll whine and complain) - this article will arm you with five ideas that will increase your chances for a successful outing!
Tips for Hiking with Kids (in no particular order)
Pack Novel Trail FoodsGORP: "Good Old Raisins & Peanuts" Let the kids help pick the ingredients and mix them together. They'll have fun making and eating their concoction.
Food is one of the best ways to catch your kids’ attention on the trail, while, at the same time, providing them a source of energy to get them through the hike. But instead of the everyday fare your kids eat at home or at school, introduce them to GORP. Traditionally, GORP is a mix of raisins a peanuts, but you can get creative and add more - of different - ingredients. Throw a handful of M&Ms into the mix, along with dried banana chips, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, pretzels, rice crackers, and/or cheese sticks. Give them some say in what types of 'treats' are added and get them involved! Your kids will love eating the mixture they helped to create and will associate the wonderful taste with nature.
Bring Along Some of Their Friends
Be the "cool" parents and let your children invite one or more of their friends to tag along. The activity will be more fun and engaging for them if they aren’t just surrounded by their parents, plus it will be a fun learning experience for the other kids. Do make sure to talk it over with the other children’s parents about the trip (location, duration, etc). Assure them that their kids will be in good hands while they are with you. It's also a good idea, when you are responsible for other children, to bring a cellular phone - if you have one - and get contact numbers for each child.
Teach Kids About Safety
One of the most important precautionary measures you can take is to provide each child with their own whistle. Instruct them that it should only be used in cases of emergency. It will be easier for you to find a lost child who uses a whistle, than one who whimpers for help.
Also, show your kids pictures of any poisonous plants and wild animals in your area, prior to hitting the trail. Teach them the importance of not getting close to these plants and/or animals.
Boost Kids Self-esteem
Out there on the trail, there are a lot of skills that children can learn and which only nature can teach them. For example, when your kids cross a stream by hopping across rocks, climbing over a fallen log, or making their way over a rocky ledge, they will gain a sense of well-earned accomplishment and pride. Of course, give them a bit of support with encouraging words or a helping hand when they need it. Nothing boosts a child’s self-esteem more than praise and an acknowledgement of their accomplishments from adults.
Show Kids that Hiking is Fun
There are so many things that you can do in nature to keep your kids occupied and engaged. Kids love playing games like "I Spy" or "20 Questions", while they're walking. Hiking can present great opportunities to teach kids things that they wouldn’t otherwise learn in school, such as a variety of facts about the different kinds of plants, insects, or landforms. Kids love collecting pretty leaves or stones to keep as souvenirs.
As parents, it's important to remain patient, flexible and - depending on weather, moods or ability - modify your goals. You might not reach the end of the trail as planned. Adjust your hike for the enjoyment and comfort level of your kids. Remember to take lots of extra clothes too, as exploring kids can accidentally get wet and they often get chilled more easily than adults.
Keeping children motivated, warm, engaged and well-fed are keys to having a fun, easy hike with kids.
Other Useful Resources
1) GORP Recipes - Backpacker Magazine reader contest to find the best GORP recipe!
2) More Tips - An REI collection of tips for hiking with kids.
3) Hiking Safety - Basics of camping & outdoor safety for the whole family.