If you’re someone who loves the great outdoors, and especially hiking, then you know how much your favorite hobby can change once kids are in the picture. In many cases, hikers lose their passion for hiking once a baby is born. That said, the passion usually returns as a child gets older. While it’s still possible to hike – although not to the same extent – when you have a baby, we will focus on hiking with older kids (4-12 years old).
When it comes to hiking with children, there are many ways it can turn out. What many people don’t realize is that they have a lot of control over what that outcome will be. You can’t take your five year old to climb Mount Washington. This is obviously too much of a challenge for someone of that size, and would also be dangerous. That said, many areas have smaller peaks that are good for day hikes. Even if there are larger peaks, there are usually shorter routes you can plan. And if you don’t live near a peak, that’s not a problem, either. You don’t need a peak to hike. Some of the most beautiful hikes in the country are on flat land.
Regardless of whether you hike in the mountains or in the swamp, there are many tips you should consider prior to going on a hike with your children. The first thing you need to realize before you even plan anything is that your expectations need to be altered. If you’re expecting your child to have as much energy and passion as you right off the bat, you’re only going to be disappointed. If you want your child to enjoy themselves and have a desire to go hiking again in the future, then you need to plan a short hike with at least one scenic location or place of interest.
By keeping the route short, you will increase the chances that they will feel successful once completing the hike. This will make them want to hike again. It’s like anything else. When someone is good at something, they want to do more of it. If they fail, they’re not likely to have as much interest. Also, by having at least one scenic location, it gives them a goal to strive for, as well as a place to break for snacks and drinks, which all kids love.
You can also heighten your child’s interest in the hike by pointing out little things on the trail, such as frogs, snakes, types of trees, tadpoles in a stream, etc. These are things that might seem basic and uninteresting to you, but they will be of great interest to them. Basically, if you make the trip more about them than you, your odds of having a successful family hike will greatly increase.
One thing to remember when hiking with kids, or at any time for that matter, is that you can always take layers of clothing off if you have them. However, if you don’t bring extra clothes, you can’t put extra layers on. It’s always a good idea to have extra clothing in your backpack, especially with children on the hike. There’s no telling what can happen on a hike. If a pop-up thundershower rolls through or someone falls off a tree bridge and into a stream, you’re going to want to be prepared.
In order to find the right trails for families, consider looking up information on your county. Their websites will often lead you in the right direction. If not, just give parks and recreation a call. They should know what your best options will be.
Of course, there are some very important items you’re going to want to make sure you remember for your hike with your child or children. These items include Band-Aids, Tylenol, tweezers (to remove ticks), a lighter, a first aid kit, children’s sunscreen, bug spray, and snacks and drinks.
It’s hopeful that the above information will make your family hike more enjoyable. Another bonus tip is to tell your child that he or she can invite a friend. This will surely heighten their excitement, since they will be able to share their new adventure with a friend. Most importantly, make sure you keep it fun.