Hiking with Kids
The idea of a long walk in the forest may not have the same appeal for your kids as it does for you. Here are a few tips and tricks that might make your next (or first) hiking trip more enjoyable for everybody.
Keeha Beach, Vancouver Island, BC
- Set your group's goals based on the youngest child's ability.
- When hiking or walking with a group of children, assign a leader and let them take turns leading the charge.
- Let your child bring a friend – someone who sees the world from their perspective.
- Play games that encourage them to observe what's around them. Old standbys like "I Spy" and "20 Questions" soak up loads of time on the trail. Try bird watching, looking for animal tracks, or counting rocks, birds, or flowers as you hike.
- Building anticipation and excitement around what lies ahead (a waterfall, river, or lake) is often sufficient motivation.
- Plan to take lots of breaks, but call call them "energy stops" rather than rest stops. Enthusiastically call out, "Who wants an ENERGY STOP?" and have lots of healthy treats and juice or water ready to pass out.
- If the hike/walk is going well, consider heading home a little early. Better to end early on a positive note then push on in the face of waning enthusiasm.
Windy Ridge, Selkirks, BC
What to Bring
For your first short forays you'll need nothing more than a healthy helping of enthusiasm. As your hikes get longer you'll need a few more supplies. Aside from the obvious (water, snacks, and a small first aid kit) you may also want to consider:
- Kids' sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen, and hats.
- Wet wipes and tissues.
- An extra fleece jacket or pullover.
- A small disposable camera – let them take their own pictures!
- A change of clothes can't hurt, but a pair of dry socks is a must.
Let your child carry a pack. It gives them a sense of purpose and engages them in the entire event. Obviously, keep it small and light. As they get stronger, let them pack a flashlight, their own water, and a snack. (However, be prepared to carry their pack when they've had enough.)
- Check your first aid kit before each trip. Replace missing items, like adhesive bandages and tweezers. Don't forget the thermometer.
- Don't let kids wear open-toed shoes. They don't need fancy hiking boots – simple running shoes will do the trick.
- Children get cold faster than adults. Dress them in several layers, which can be peeled off as they get warm, and added as they get cool.
- Keep young kids in sight at all times. Older children should be encouraged to stay in sight, or at least within earshot.
- Teach children to stay where they are if they think they're lost. Teach them to "hug a tree" and stay put. Teaming up kids with a buddy may also prevent a solo straggler from drifting off the trail.
- Each child should carry a whistle to signal for help. A whistle is louder then yelling and much easier to sustain. Before you head out, agree on a signal – three blows is a standard distress signal that indicates "I'm lost" or "I need help."