For us, hikers, it is all about the outdoors. For children, it is always about the adventure. When you mix both together, you have outdoor adventures with your kids. Everything sounds amazing; if they have a great time hiking as children, they will very likely turn into hiking-lovers as grownups.
To ensure the best time when hiking, you need to be ready, and that is precisely what we will tackle in this post. Read on, understand the differences between them and you, and make those fantastic landscapes turn them on to nature from an early age.
Hiking with your kids, is it really worth the extra effort?
Well, first things first: is it worth the effort to bring your kids for some outdoor adventures? The answer I can give because of my experience and the experience of fellow hikers is a huge yes.
Children enjoy the outdoors even more than grownups; you can set a path leaving a mark for them to grow up as healthy, sporty, outdoor-loving human beings. Let’s see some of the reasons why it is a good idea to bring them on board.
Take them away from the screens
Nowadays, children are not tempted but bombarded with fun coming from screens of all sizes that bolt them to a chair. They have instant fun with content coming from cellphones, tablets, computers, etc… and don’t get to experience the fresh air, healthy joy of the outdoors.
Showing them the wonders of being outside, how the world rewards hikers with the most amazing views, and experiences is a great way to take them away from the screen at least for a little while.
An impression for life
While taking them away from the screen at an early age, you are also making an impression in their young minds that will last forever.
It is tough to explain what does a landscape looks like or how does it smell like inside an ancient forest, but providing them with first-hand experience can solve that for good. Take them hiking to create a lasting impression about how great outdoors fun can be.
Quality family time
With the bombarding of the screens, looking at each other’s eyes and feeling that connection, talking about random subjects, and overall spending quality time together is getting more and more difficult. When hiking, there are more chances of doing bonding activities.
Also, going through some situations of mutual help, trust, and laughter can bring you closer. Spending quality family time while hiking might be a game-changer for you and your loved ones.
Kids can be roughly divided into three big groups, of which this is the first: Infants. The term applies to those between 0 and 12 months. For this age, there are certain things to bear in mind:
- Until children are 6 months old, they need to be carried in the front, and after that, they can be graduated to a backpack (regardless of being carried by mum or dad).
- The movement of the hiking trail will put them to sleep, so they’ll be napping most of the time. Try to fit that into their regular nap time and look for a beautiful resting spot to play so you won’t ruin his or her sleeping habits.
- Beware of climate and time, you shouldn’t hike for more than a couple of hours at once with your infant. Also, avoid rain, snow, and extreme temperatures.
- Covering your baby from the sun is extremely important; they suffer way more than we do from it.
- Make sure you don’t discard any “baby waste” in nature; bring plenty of bags and extra sets of diapers.
- Among the extras, always have an extra clean bottle to give them more water if needed.
“Toddlers want to toddle” is an important motto to bear in mind so you can plan accordingly for your children between 1 and 5. It is nice to see your toddler be curious and explore places in detail, so let him or her do it in specific, restricted areas.
- Keep spare clothes ready at all times, or you’ll go crazy with the washing and cleaning. Toddlers love to get dirty, so change them only at the end of the day (unless they get wet).
- Don’t go too far away from your base because your child might get tired, and you might have to carry his or her weight back all the way.
- Get your child some colorful gear and a backpack of his or her own to carry something lightweight; they love to do so.
- Don’t worry about footwear, toddlers won’t walk all that much.
- Make sure they are properly hydrated. If they have a water bottle of their own, they will be more motivated to drink.
School-age kids are those who graduated from any carrying equipment and can hike on their own two feet. This usually happens between 6 and 12. First of all, you need to teach them safety and eco-consciousness.
- Your kids should ALWAYS carry a whistle with them in case they get lost. Also, they should never hike out of the sight of their parents.
- Teach your kids to leave no trace behind and to respect nature. This is as important as their own safety if we want to make the world a better place.
- Involve them in every step of the planning and decision making, especially in picking their own gear.
- Try to keep it fun! Always bear in mind that kids find contemplating beauty super dull, and as much as you might be amazed by a landscape, they won’t. Also, bored kids are way more likely to get into big trouble than those who are having fun.
These are the essentials you need to take your kids into this enjoyable experience.
Shirts are super important for your kids because they’ll be protected from the sun, the weather and also any branch. For infants, they need to be sun reflective to avoid burns. When they are toddlers, you need something resistant to the wear and tear but also fresh and easy to take out; sun-reflective button shirts work great for this.
As they grow into school-age, you can let them pick color and design, but try to stay away from cotton and polyester. Dresses for girls are great and super fresh for hiking in the summertime.
Most of the big brands like Merrell offer kids footwear; that is where you should be looking at to buy it. Make sure it has a good grip, and that works well with their ankles.
If you are going to a wet place or there are raining chances, pack some waterproof boots as well. Bear in mind that infants and toddlers will very rarely set foot on the floor, so it is not so important for kids under five.
This is a definite must for all ages of kids to take with them when hiking. You can allow them to pick the design and color, but they must wear it to protect themselves from the sun. The younger they are, the more colorful, lively, and fun the design has to be. If they like it enough, they’ll wear it happily.
For pants with no buttons and suitable for hiking, I would suggest you look at REI Mountainmaker Pants ranging from XXS onwards. There are not a whole lot of hiking pants for the little ones, and they do need to be comfy. Just like with the shoes, it is not so crucial for kids under five.
This is an enjoyable moment that will be memorable to the entire family. I have a recommendation for you: get them involved in the decision-making from the very beginning. Toddlers and school-age kids will love to take theirs if they have chosen it, so pack it very light and let them carry it all the time they want to.
Also, when picking the model, try going to a hiking-gear store so that they won’t be tempted to take a regular Sponge Bob one and start using specific hiking gear from the very beginning.
Snacks and drinkables
More than the essentials you would bring as an adult, kids need their very own kind of food and drinks along the way. If your infant is fed with formula, make sure you bring several extras. If they drink from a baby bottle, make sure you have a way to heat it up so they can drink it the same way they have it at home.
For snacks, try to choose healthy, highly caloric, and protein-filled ones so they can have an extra pump to endure the way. This is especially important when talking about school-age kids who will be walking all the way.
Bear in mind that you can be laying down the foundations of a healthy feeding habit by making evident the connection between healthy food and exercise with energy sources.
Protection and first aid
Always be prepared for something to happen. Infants get rashes and mosquito bites; toddlers love to toddle and get scratches and other minor injuries, while school-age kids can be a little more into minor wounds and colds. Be prepared to treat at least all of these affections on the spot.
Child carriers need to have two essential features: they need to be comfortable for you and also for the child. If you are on a budget, try cutting expenses somewhere else since the child carrier can be a life-saver for your kid. Also, if he or she is uncomfortable, a beautiful hike can turn into a nightmare that will last the entire way.
Always look for references, try it out and walk around with it for a while inside the shop; never buy it blindly without trying. These are some of the things you should check before making the purchase:
- Check the straps thoroughly and make sure the carrier has very sturdy and reliable ones, you’ll be trusting your kid’s life to them.
- Always choose a carrier that has a hood for the sun, rain, and other weather inclemency.
- Make sure it provides proper head support for your sleeping child since that is something they will definitely do while you walk.
- Make sure it has enough room for a water reservoir. Some of them come with a daypack attached, in which case you’ll be avoiding the extra effort of carrying another one with you.
- Check that it sits comfortably against your back and that it has a stand to put it safely on the floor.
Hiking with children is a beautiful experience that will help you shape your kids’ temper and skills. Don’t be afraid, just be ready. All these tips and gear can prove to be very helpful, so don’t overlook any item and have a great time with your family enjoying the outdoors.