Do you love the great outdoors, and love the feeling of being on the trail hiking with kids? For us, hiking with kids has been somewhat of a challenge. So we share here our tips for hiking with your children which might make the challenge easier.
Our assumption for this post is that these are not pram accessible trails and the child either needs to hike or be carried. These are practical suggestions for Hiking with Small kids (eg, under about 7). For a fantastic lot of suggestions for tweens and teens take a look at Hiking with Kids tips
When you have a baby or toddler, they can be carried easily enough. While the pace and rhythm of the hike changes, it is still completely doable. However, once they hit about 2 years old they start to get heavier to carry. More importantly, they also get fairly vocal and determined to express their opinion about being stuck in a carrier.
In our experience, while they could certainly go on short walks and then be carried, when between 2 and 4, it wasn’t a lot of fun hiking with kids. Each family might be different, the ages are arbitrary.
Our top tips for hiking with kids- from about ages 4 to 8.
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1. Change Your Expectations
Those days of striding out, being one with nature, and crossing a lot of different terrain in one day is just not going to happen. When we say hiking with kids we are talking short walks of between 3km and say 8km in one day (about 2 to 4 miles). Hiking with kids is not going to be the same as hiking as a lone adult. Realizing that helped us to change our overall enjoyment of the experience.
2. Look For A Low Difficulty Hike
Our daughter is a great hiker, willing and fit. However we’ve noticed that when we take on something that is a tad too challenging the next time she is less willing to do the hike. So nowadays we look for hikes that *should be* easy – that is, undulating or even flat terrain. Avoid mountains or overgrown paths!
3. Go Prepared
Decent shoes, hats, and sunburn cream are all a must for any hiker but even more so with children.
4. Stop And Rest Really Often
Be prepared to take really frequent rest breaks, with lots of snacks. Drink lots of water along the way . Not only will resting and eating will help keep energy levels up, it is a great way of breaking up the hike.
This seems obvious, but the kids need more water and more rest breaks that you might do normally. Being attuned to their needs and stopping sooner rather than later will help avoid tired kids.
5. Incentives Are KING
A sweet (or other incentive) can be a good way to keep motivation up. For example, we say you can have a jelly bean at the next yellow trail marker. Just finding the trail markers and having mini celebrations break up the walking a bit!
6. Get Vocal
Rhymes for littles and conversations for older kids can keep their mind off their legs and cover the distance easier. For older children, conversations about the terrain, vegetation, or anything that crosses their mind is a great way to have much needed quality time.
7. Use Props & Make It Fun
By “props” I refer to the camera, binoculars, compass or other item.
Letting the kids use the camera to take pictures, or having their own binoculars can break the trip up immensely. Our little guy is a keen birdwatcher and is always stopping when he hears birdsong.
In addition, it seems pretty obvious – but for people who like to hike – this is possibly not… MAKE IT FUN!!!
Walk along fallen branches, hopping, or even dancing can help get the kids minds off the hike. Hug some trees, be one with nature.
Of all the items on this list so far, this one has been hardest for this mama hiker. It seems so slow to stop and listen to every bird or photograph every fern, but it sure does help keep morale up!
8. Be Prepared To Carry…Yep
OK, some people might not agree with this one. Some people might have babies that they are already carrying. However, on two recent hikes this mama has taken her Ergo Baby and popped her 4.5 year old in it for a couple steep sections of trail. At over 20kg, he is not light. However, having him in the carrier for about 1km (.6 miles) certainly improved his mood and meant we were able to carry on. Photo taken by Little Miss 7 who was happily playing with Mumma’s camera.
Do you like hiking with kids? Hit us with your best hints below in the comments – there are always more tips and tricks to learn!
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