HIKING WITH KIDS
When hiking with children, don’t forget to:
- Choose an easier trail
- Plan shorter stages
- Take regular breaks
- Eat something before your child gets too hungry
- Play and discover
- Keep a good mood going
- Prepare for the hike with comfortable and functional equipment
When you take your child out into the great outdoors for the first time you introduce them to a whole new world. Although there may come a time when your child isn’t so keen to accompany their parents on these kinds of trips, if you’ve got them interested early, there’s a greater chance that their desire to explore the outdoors will return later in life.
In this guide we offer some handy advice on what to bear in mind when hiking with children – so you can makes sure that your child's first outdoorsy experience is a brilliant one.
Plan shorter stages
Remember: a child just can’t walk as fast or far as an adult. Take regular breaks and let children rest their legs or play for a while. Include time for this in your route plan and customise stages accordingly. Don’t stress or pressure the child as it will quickly ruin the joy of hiking for them!
Maintain basic needs
Keep kids dry, warm and full. You can’t expect a child to endure discomfort as well as an adult can. Even if your child is a tough one, wet socks and hunger will unnecessary affect their mood.
In difficult times when the going gets heavy and hard, it's important that you provide a good example and keep your mood up. Try to distract your child's attention from any negatives. For e.g. remind your child that you’ll have a cookie and some hot chocolate together during the next break or come up with something else that they can look forward to.
Equipment & preparations
Comfortable and functional equipment makes the outdoors way more enjoyable. Remember the three-layer principle when dressing your child (see our Seasonal Dressing For Children Guide if you’re not sure what this means) and make sure to pack back-up clothing for sudden changes in weather and extra warm clothes for breaks. Invest in a pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes and get your child used to them before the trip. You don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff, but proper equipment makes the outdoor experience much more enjoyable.
Harnesses & child carriers
If you’re planning to hike with small children or infants, you’re going to need a good carrier seat or a harness. Take a mirror with you so that you and your child can see each other if they end up sitting on your back. Test-walk the hiking seat or harness and give you and your child the chance to get used to it. If you want to take a quick day trip you can pop your child in the carrier during nap time - since these carriers often have a relaxing, rocking motion.
Try the equipment at home
Allow your child to get used to how it feels to wear their hiking boots and carry their own backpack ahead of your trip. If you’re planning to sleep in a tent, it might be an idea to pitch the tent in your garden, living room or a suitable nearby nature area beforehand. This will help them to feel safe and at home in the tent.
Teach younger children to always stay within sight. Let older children that have been hiking before go ahead if they want to, but instruct them to stop on a regular basis and wait for you. Give them a whistle and teach them to blow three times if they get lost.
Passing time at the camp
In addition to absolute necessities such as changes of clothes, it’s a great idea to pack something that your child will enjoy playing around with if things start to get a little slow. For e.g. your child's favourite toy or interesting gadgets such as binoculars, a flashlight or a compass.