Here’re all the tips for hiking with kids, toddlers, and teenagers you need to make your upcoming getaway a memorable experience for the whole family.
Many people think their days of hiking through mountains and woods are over the day they have children. But the thing is — it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of giving up on one of your passions, it’s quite possible to go hiking with your children.
While it’s not as easy as hiking with other adults, it’s also not too challenging, and most of the time, kids enjoy it quite a lot. Getting your children out into the wilderness teaches them to respect nature, and it’s also never a bad idea to disconnect them from technology every now and then.
To make your life easier, here are some of the best tips for hiking with kids of any age, including toddlers, older kids, and teenagers.
- General Safety Tips When Hiking With Kids
- Tips For Hiking With Toddlers (1-4)
- Tips For Hiking With Kids (5-12)
- Tips For Hiking With Teenagers (13-18)
General Safety Tips When Hiking With Kids
If you’re going out hiking with children, one of the main concerns should be how to stay safe. Children can sometimes do silly things, so it’s important to know what to do in worst-case scenarios and educate them on certain things.
Give Them Whistles
Giving your children whistles might not seem like a good idea at first — especially if they overuse them. However, it can be a great tool to use if they get lost.
Make sure each child has a whistle around their neck or attached to their backpack. Be sure to explain the importance of only using it when there is an emergency.
The good thing about whistles is that the sound travels a lot further than a human voice. A good strategy is to have a whistle yourself. Teach them to listen carefully for the return whistle, and continue a pattern of whistling and waiting for one in return every few minutes until they’re back with the group.
Stay On Marked Trails
Staying on marked trails is an excellent way of staying safe while you’re hiking, with or without kids. But you should also teach your kids this critical principle.
If you start going down ghost trails, you never know if you’re going to make it to your destination or whether the track will lead to danger.
Also, starting ghost trails doesn’t help anyone since it damages the wildlife and only confuses other hikers.
Always Keep Your Children In View
It might sound like common sense, but it’s an important rule to follow. It’s easy for kids to slip out of view in just a few seconds, and it certainly happens quite a lot, even when you’re not hiking outdoors.
Even when you’re on a marked path, it only takes seconds for your child to turn on to a ghost trail and get lost. That’s why you should always make sure your young children are in your line of sight and within arms distance. Of course, for older children, you might feel more comfortable letting them go a bit further.
Going off this while playing Hide and Seek might seem like a great idea at the time — it’s not. Certain games aren’t necessarily a good idea to play in the great outdoors. Kids can get lost quickly when playing, so try and keep certain games at home.
Bring All The Gear You Need
While you will want to carry most of the heavy gear, it’s not a bad idea for your child to have gear of their own. Each child should be equipped with a hiking backpack full of provisions and essentials. It doesn’t have to be a considerable amount, just important things like water, snacks, and waterproof clothing.
Apart from gear, make sure they have enough water to last the day and that they’re actually drinking the water. It’s essential to stay hydrated and warm/cool when out hiking.
When kids are cold and hungry, they start to complain and not enjoy it as much. So to stop the whining from starting, make sure you keep them fed and warm at all times.
The weather can also change quickly when out on a hike, so keep your eye on the weather and have the appropriate clothing in case it does change. While you might not be wearing rain jackets, keep them in your backpacks in case rain starts to pour.
Before you go out on the hiking trip, double-check that everyone has all the gear they need.
Use The Buddy System
Using the buddy system is an excellent tactic if you have multiple children on the hike. Make sure they’re always paired up with someone else and describe the importance of sticking together, even if they’re going to the bathroom.
Wear Bright Colored Clothes
The good thing about bright-colored clothes is that younger children love wearing them, but more importantly, they stand out when outside. While you might be tempted to wear camouflage clothes when out walking, it’s a good idea to wear bright colors as well so your kids can find you easily.
Tips For Hiking With Toddlers (1-4)
Spending time with your toddler doing something you love is a great experience, but you need to be prepared when you bring them along. Hauling your toddler around isn’t easy, but it’s rewarding. Here are some tips for hiking with toddlers:
Use The Right Baby Carrier: There are many types of travel baby carriers. One of the most popular is the backpack-style carriers. No matter what style you choose, one thing’s for sure — hiking with a baby stroller is not an easy task. Pick the right carrier that works best for you and your partner. Before taking a two-hour hiking trip, make sure your kid is used to the carrier. Don’t go out on a trip before testing the equipment.
Bring Food & Water: It goes without saying, but be sure to bring enough food to keep everyone happy. If your toddler is a couple of months old, make sure to bring an extra bottle to fill with water to keep them hydrated throughout the trip. Otherwise, pack enough formula to keep them well fed.
Ease Into It: Don’t go straight into a long hike. Take shorter walks first and consider the weather. It’s vital for your toddler to get used to long walks and also gives you the chance to see how they react to being outdoors. The last thing you want is to plan a two-hour trip when they can’t stand being outside for more than 30 minutes.
Dress For The Weather: If the sun is out, you need to make sure you have some sort of protection from the sun for you and the baby. Dress them in suitable clothes according to the weather. Although it’s much better for them to have too many clothes that you can simply remove than not enough.
Tips For Hiking With Kids (5-12)
Hiking with older kids can present different challenges than walking with toddlers. For one, children like to explore and disappear out of sight. But the following tips can help make the hiking trip more enjoyable for everyone:
Choose A Destination Wisely: Kids are always up for an adventure with a cool end goal. Endlessly trekking through the woods might not be too fun, but an amazing view at the end can certainly make their experience more fun. Similarly, hiking to a lake is also a great way to add to the fun.
Make It Fun Along The Way: While there is always the end goal of finishing the hike, make it fun along the way for them. Try to make games out of simple stuff. It can be games like counting birds or small scavenger hunts. You can also make short races to smaller destinations like giant trees or lakes. More is always merrier, so if your child doesn’t have any siblings, try bringing along a friend to help keep them entertained.
Educate Them On The Outdoors: There are plenty of learning opportunities that hiking in the outdoors presents. You can teach kids things like map reading — a valuable skill that most kids don’t learn anymore. You can make games out of map reading and try and get them to locate a destination.
You should also teach them things like leaving no trace behind. It’s valuable knowledge all children should learn, teach them early, and show them how to respect the environment.
Even before the hike begins, involve them in the planning. Kids feel more rewarded when they have a part in the planning, like letting them pick the trail. You can also let them pack their own bags, so they feel like adults. Just make sure to double-check it to ensure they have everything.
Take Breaks: Take plenty of breaks for the kids to recharge, have some water, and eat some snacks. You don’t want them to run out of energy too fast. Since kids have more energy in the mornings, you should also start the hikes early. On the plus side, they’ll be tired out by the time you get home.
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Tips For Hiking With Teenagers (13-18)
Depending on your child, this might be the hardest or easiest age range. Some teenagers love being outside, while others prefer to spend time with their friends or playing other games.
But with the following tips, things should be a little easier:
Let Them Choose The Route: Teenagers love feeling like they are in control so let them have some. Letting your teenager pick the location can create an interest in the hike. If there’s an activity they want to try along the way like swimming, hike to the location. Otherwise, play games with them. This will depend on the age, but try and play some fun games with them along the way. Find out what your kids love and try and combine it with the hike.
Bring Some Of Their Friends: Teenagers love spending time with their friends, so let them bring people with them. While this means you’ll have some more responsibilities, friends tend to watch out for each other as well.
Bring Plenty Of Food & Water: You should bring lots of water and also a few fizzy drinks to keep them happy along the way. Teenagers love to eat, so make sure they have enough food and healthy snacks to keep them happy. While you might be able to handle an empty stomach for a bit, you’ll certainly hear about it from them.
Don’t Oversell It: Before you go, try to get them to be enthusiastic about it, but not too much to the point where you oversell it. Also, it’s good to have rules but try to avoid controlling all their actions. Done are the days where kids don’t have phones, so embrace it, let them take photos, or play a game on their break.
What To Do If Someone Get’s Lost
Unfortunately, even if you follow these rules to the tea, your children or yourself can still get separated from you or the group. This is where the importance of prior preparation comes into play.
Before leaving, you should teach your kids what to do in case it does happen.
The first thing to teach your kids is to stop when they realize they’re lost—the chance of becoming more disoriented increases if they’re moving around. There is a good chance they probably won’t be heading in the right direction if they’re wandering around while panicking.
Once they’ve stopped, this is where your kid should be thinking about using the whistle you gave them earlier. Teach them the process of how to use the whistle when they get lost.
The next thing you need to teach them is to look at their surroundings. The idea here is to look for something familiar to help them calm down. Are they near a river? Is there a lake nearby? Can you see fresh footprints? Asking these questions can help calm down and feel better about the situation.
You need to teach them to find an area that can be used as a shelter for when it starts getting cold at night. This can be next to a fallen rock or a tree. Teach them to use fallen leaves to insulate the bottom and stack sticks to protect them from the cold wind at night.
Make sure they know never to stop using the whistle since it’s the best chance of them being found at night.
But what should you do if your child is lost?
You should track back to the point where you last remember seeing your child. Use your whistle and call their name. Ask other hikers if they’ve seen your child anywhere.
If you’re hiking at a national park, try and get in contact with a park ranger. Sometimes they have a speaker system around the park and cameras that can help you locate your child. If you still can’t find them call the police or mountain rescue to get them to help with the search.
That concludes this guide on hiking with tips. Hiking is a fun activity that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. Remember to keep it safe and make it fun for kids. If you follow the tips and tricks mentioned above, you’ll have no trouble hiking with children and exploring some beautiful locations together.
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