Going for a hike with your kids is the perfect opportunity to spend time outdoors as a family. However, the experience can quickly go south if you fail to follow a few basic rules. For this article, we spoke to some hiking parents and compiled their best advice on how to share good times with your kids.
FOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR HIKING WITH KIDS OF ALL AGES
Find a trail that’s meant for kids
Whether it’s your first trip into the great outdoors since the arrival of your newborn or an adventurous vacation with your grown-up kids, make a plan that first and foremost is one they will enjoy. Set aside your own goals, especially if your own outings are focused on per-formance. And unless you know your child’s abilities and motivations super well, plan short, fun hikes with an engaging objective: a picnic by a high-altitude lake, a swim on a beach, a night in a refuge, etc. Themed trails are perfect for this. Remember, it’s better to finish your day with your children hungry for more rather than making them miserable with a never-ending walk.
Also, go with an itinerary that’s well within your abilities, with little or no commitment. If you’re already familiar with the hike that you’re planning, that’s even better. The peace of mind that comes from knowing the route will enable you to devote your full, stress-free attention to your kids.
Let your child set the pace
Letting your child set the pace during a hike isn’t always obvious but it’s important, especially with younger kids. If your little ones get tired or hungry they won’t enjoy anything and neither will you. So don’t take them out during nap time and stop to eat at their usual mealtimes. As they get older and become more experienced hikers, your kids will start to become more flexible when they need to be.
Make hiking fun
Simply going for a hike is rarely very fun for your kid. You need to open your mind and get creative to make a hike that’s unforgettable for the whole family including themed trails, treasure hunts, nature walks or photo safaris. You don’t go hiking with kids, you go on an adventure!
Is your child is starting to get tired or discouraged? Quick! Turn your hike into a treasure hunt, a marmot search, or an obstacle course, and they’ll soon be back on track.
If possible, walking with an animal literally transforms the hiking experience. Whether it’s a dog, horse or donkey, setting off in the company of an animal can be a great way to keep the whole family motivated. Just be sure to check local regulations first.
Choosing the right clothing and equipment
You’ll find plenty of advice on how to gear up for hiking in our Stories and Guides and they’re especially useful for kids. Taking the right technical clothing for them will ensure their comfort and reduce the amount of stuff to carry. Keep your focus on essential items that will protect them from the sun and bad weather.
As for kid’s hiking shoes, Salomon’s range start at size 26, which corresponds to an age where kids can begin going on longer walks. For really young kids, or for short hikes, a good pair of comfortable, lightweight sneakers should work fine.
Your child might also want a backpack to carry his teddy bear or a water bottle. For little kids, find a small backpack and make sure to keep it light by not putting too much in it.
As a general rule, try to keep the amount of stuff your children take with them to a minimum so that they have as much freedom as possible. If they take unnecessary things like a big backpack, a walking stick, heavy clothing, etc. you’ll run the risk of having to carry it all yourself!
HOW TO HIKE WITH A BABY
If there’s nothing keeping you from it, you can take your newborn hiking with you from their very first months. However, there are a few precautions you should take to ensure the best for your baby:
- For newborns, use a baby sling or other physiological baby carrier that holds your baby close to your body. Once your baby can sit up on her own (from around nine months), a well-adjusted baby carrier backpack can work great.
- Be extra careful to protect your really well baby from sun, cold and bad weather.
- Take well-traveled routes that you’re already very familiar with.
- Check the weather before you go and if conditions don’t look good, or if it looks like they could deteriorate, don’t take the risk.
- If you’re hiking in the mountains, keep an eye on your baby for her reaction to the altitude. Always ascend slowly and if you have any doubt, go down immediately.
Hiking with your baby can be an excellent way to introduce her to nature and the el-ements while also sharing good times away from home together.
HOW TO HIKE WITH A 2- TO 4-YEAR-OLD CHILD
Taking your kids hiking when they’re two to four years old can be tricky. Their walking skills are still developing, which means toddlers can get tired quickly. They’re also getting heavier so carrying them can become more and more difficult.
It’s best to plan short hikes without elevation gain and on easy paths where little ones are likely to come in contact with nature. Encourage them to walk and explore and only carry them occasionally when you can see they’re getting tired.
A stream, a bit of easy climbing, a marmot at the side of the trail – these are all aspects of hiking that will keep children interested and will motivate them to continue.
HIKING WITH A 5- TO 7-YEAR-OLD CHILD
Starting at five years, active kids who are in good health can go on longer hikes with more autonomy because at this age they can seem to have an endless supply of energy! Just be sure to emphasize the fun side of the hike based on each child’s interests. The hike’s physical and technical challenges can also inspire budding athletes, so keep an eye out for what en-gages them and use it to have fun!
Camping in the mountains? A trip or a trek with the whole family for a few days? As long as you adapt things to your kids, the sky’s the limit!
When it comes to gear, this is the age when you’ll be able to find hiking footwear that’s specifically designed for kids, just make sure it’s lightweight. Sneakers or running shoes can also work. A small backpack can also help your child gradually gain independence as long as they don’t carry more than a few kilos.
HIKING WITH TEENAGERS
Hiking isn’t a typical activity that’s popular with teenagers. However, you might be able to get them interested by creating a sense of adventure, or by cooking up challenges they can take on with their family or friends. Get them involved in the planning as soon as you begin to look at the map, and give them responsibilities during the walk, while also setting safety rules that you feel are appropriate. Inviting a friend along can create a positive at-mosphere and encourage them to become more independent. And who knows, if they’re keen on mountain or outdoor sports, the hardest part might be keeping up with them!
Practical advice aside, outdoor adventures with kids can be a limitless source of discov-ery and provide unforgettable memories. So load up your backpacks, find an interesting trail and set off on an adventure with your young explorers. Whether it’s a simple stroll in the forest or a hike in the mountains, each step will bring them a little closer to nature and strengthen your family ties.