There is nothing quite like hiking with small children. The thrill of introducing these young ones to the wonder of nature is matched only by their eyes as they take it all in. If you follow a few simple rules when hiking with children, things go extremely well. Forget these simple rules and your treks with the young can be a recipe for disaster.
The first thing to remember is that young ones don’t understand or know the dangers of a trail that might seem the most basic of realities to anyone else. Poison oak, snakes and wild animals seem fun to the youngest of hikers. You know better and need to make sure that your partners do as well. You’ll need to be the eyes and ears of those who eyes and ears aren’t yet up to the task. You’d be surprised how quickly they can get themselves into trouble so you’ll need to keep on your toes.
Secondly, you’ll want to bring lots of snacks. Little legs burn a lot of energy when they’re hiking and their little stomachs require that you feed them often. Obviously, go without quick fixes of candy and the like. Nuts, whole grains and dried fruit all taste great and work well for all ages. Make sure to bring lots of water as well.
With so many snacks, trash will be a big issue. Teach these young ones about the power of packing out their trash and keep the environment as clean and pristine as possible.
Know that a good first aid kit with Band-Aids, ointment and insect repellant is always a good idea. There is no reason to let an entire hike go bad, just because someone fell down and went “boom.” If your crew is young enough, diapers and a change or two of clothing is also well worth the effort.
If one or more of the children are brought on the trek in some form of backpack, make sure that the pack is fit for you before you take off on your trip. Adjustments, for some reason, are always easier to make at home than they are in the middle of your trek. If you are purchasing a new pack for your adventure, consider shying away from the cheapest option – they are the cheapest option for a reason. A good resale shop or a trip to ebay.com can find you high quality at a price you are willing to spend.
No matter where you are hiking, waterproofing is a must. A couple of ponchos have been know to save the day more times than not. They weigh next to nothing but are life savers when needed. Umbrellas are more awkward than anything else.
Finally, take lots of pictures – these are memories that you’ll want to look back on for a long time.
When you do take small children on a hike, the rewards are plentiful: an early respect for nature, good exercise, family memories and the like. Keep these simple thoughts in mind and you’ll find that this is an activity enjoyed by everyone that you’ll want to do again and again.
Linda Jones is the Webmaster of FirstHiking.com. She’s loved hiking since her parents took her on her first hike at just 14 months. Visit her site at www.firsthiking.com.