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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spring Into Adventure! 10 Tips for Spring Hiking With Children

Photo by Loren Kerns (Flickr)

While walking to school today, my girls and I spotted dozens of flowers poking up from their winter slumber, and we heard plenty of birds chirping from the trees. These sights and sounds of spring reminded me that's it's time to plan our first hiking adventure of the season. Whether you're a first-time hiker or veteran, consider using these 10 tips that help my family as we engage in safe, fun, and frequent spring hiking with our children.

Start Small

Although my girls can tackle longer hikes now, we only took short hikes when they were young. I researched trails to make sure they weren't too hard, and I tried to pick trails with a unique feature, like a wildflower patch, stream, or rocks. With a manageable and interesting trail, my girls successfully finished each hike and felt more excited about future hikes.

Focus on the Experience

Most kids don't care if they hike 20 miles or 20 yards because they're too busy enjoying the experience. I always try to slow down, let my girls set the pace, and enjoy the experiences of the great outdoors, like the colorful plants, different insects, and unique stones.

Pack the Right Supplies

On one of our first hikes, I forgot to pack water. We were so thirsty that we had to turn around early! Now, we each carry essential supplies:

  • Map and compass
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat
  • Insulation like a jacket, hat, and gloves
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • First-aid supplies, insect repellent, and prescription medications
  • Multi-tool, knife, and scissors
  • Dry foods such as energy bars, crackers, and trail mix
  • Water, at least one liter per person per hour
  • Camera and binoculars
  • Safety whistles

Dress Properly

Wearing layers keeps you comfortable while hiking and can protect your kids from cold or wet weather. Remember to wear hiking shoes that suit the terrain, too. I also learned to always toss an extra change of clothes in the car in case we get muddy or wet on the trail.

Prioritize Safety

One of our local trails stretches through a wooded area covered with boulders, and we hear reports every year of someone falling off of the rocks. I definitely want my girls to explore as we hike, but we also have to stay safe. Teach your kids to stay on the trail, be careful when navigating rocks and creeks, not touch animals, and know how to use a safety whistle.

Understand Basic First Aid Skills

Despite your best safety precautions, your kids may accidentally fall, trip, or get poked by a thorny plant. My girls and I take a basic first aid class each year. The class reminds us to exercise "safety first" and refreshes our first aid skills so that we can treat minor injuries without disrupting our hike.

Plan Frequent Breaks

Even short hikes can wear out young kids. Plan to stop often for a snack, drink, or rest. My girls often tell me that these energy stops help them stay motivated to keep walking.

Leave No Trace

To protect the outdoors for future generations, follow the guideline of "pack it in, pack it out." My younger daughter feels passionate about protecting the environment, so she picks up litter as we hike, too. In addition to not littering, leave nature alone and resist the temptation to disturb animals or plants along the trail.

Hike Often

Frequent hikes build endurance, and I know my girls feel empowered and excited about hiking as they accomplish harder and longer adventures. As often as possible, take your kids hiking on local park, forest, and neighborhood trails.

Make it Fun

When you make hikes fun for your kids, they will want to go hiking again. We play games, sing songs, count wildflower species, identify birds, and complete a scavenger hunt that requires us to find items of different colors, textures, and sizes. These activities help the time pass quickly and make our hikes fun and engaging.

Spring into adventure with your kids when you go hiking! I suggest these 10 tips that promote safe, fun, and frequent spring hiking with children. What other hiking tips do you recommend?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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