Here are some tips to plan and successfully carry out age-appropriate hikes while keeping children safe, motivated, and cheerful along the way. Click here for the printer-friendly version: TipsForHikingWithKids
Plan your hike.
- Get a good map of your hike.
- Check the distance, terrain, and elevation gained. Is it appropriate for each person in the group?
- Remember that young or inexperienced hikers tire easily; turn around sooner rather than later, even if this means not “finishing” your hike.
- Let someone know where you’re going and when you are expecting to return.
- Dress in layers of weather appropriate clothing (e.g. absorbent synthetics, fleece, waterproof jackets).
- Protect yourself from tick bites by using a repellent that contains Permethrin on your clothes and one that contains DEET for your skin, and wearing long, light colored pants tucked into long, white socks.
- Bring extra clothes, especially socks and raingear.
- Wear appropriate shoes (e.g. hiking boots, sneakers) for the weather and trail conditions.
- Bring hats and gloves if it’s cold, or sun block, hats, and bug spray if it’s hot.
- Eat a satisfying and nutritious meal before heading out to prevent fatigue and irritability.
Bring fuel for the trails.
- Bring snacks that your kids really love. Come up with your own family GORP (“good old raisins and peanuts”) recipe using chocolate-covered raisins, dried fruit, M&Ms, nuts, butterscotch chips, etc.
- Bring plenty of water or whatever else your kids love to guzzle in fun, reusable bottles.
Have emergency supplies just in case.
- Always carry a well stocked first aid kit.
- Equip everyone with their own whistle, which can be heard farther away than a person’s voice, and takes less energy to use.
- Bring a watch to keep track of the time.
- Carry your cell phone for emergencies but leave it off or silence it and let voice mail handle any calls that are not absolutely crucial.
- Set behavioral expectations before you start. Remind children to: stay on the path, stay with the group, and if you’re lost, hug a tree. By hiking in the middle of the path, you are less likely to get lost, damage plants or cause erosion, and pick up ticks. If lost, hugging a tree or other stationary object and even talking to it calms the child down, and prevents panic. By staying in one place, the child is found by searchers far more quickly, and can’t be injured in a fall or other accident.
- Confirm your position by regularly checking your map and using the trail markers.
- Take frequent breaks. Be sure to turn around well before fatigue sets in on those “out and back” hikes.
- Offer snacks and drink regularly and as motivation to get to that next bench, tree, etc.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Mountain weather, in particular, can change very quickly.
- Do a tick check immediately upon completing the hike, and again when you return home. Click here to learn more about ticks.
- Praise and encourage your child.
- Use games, songs, and activities to keep your kids from getting bored or tired. Click here for a list of fun, simple activities.
- Relax, laugh, and show your children how much you’re enjoying yourself. It is the best way to help them do the same.