Tips for Hiking with Young Children

During the Hike

Dress Appropriately
Even if you're heading out on a hike in the middle of summer, layers are always important. Those little ones get colder than we do, so bring along a jacket or warm shirt for them to wear, especially if you're hiking at higher elevation. Kids also aren't so great at staying dry, so remember to bring a pair of clothes your kids can change into when they're back at the car. Weather can change quickly, so make sure you're prepared if a rain shower or thunderstorm comes along to dampen an otherwise clear day.

Go at Their Pace
Unlike adults, most kids don't march non-stop down the trail for miles--and you shouldn't expect them to. Let your kids meander, stop and pick up rocks and check out fuzzy caterpillars. When kids are hiking, the journey truly is the destination, and their time scrambling over rocks or jumping in creek beds is as much a part of the experience as reaching the overlook you're itching to see. Expect to move at a much slower pace than if you were hiking on your own. Enjoy all you can see when you slow down and watch the world through your child's eyes. 

Make a Fun Learning Experience
Kids are happy when they feel like they are an active and important part of the family's success. Let them know their cooperation (like listening to Mom and Dad's rules while hiking) is essential to a successful hike. It's also nice to give them fun jobs, like helping to filter water from the creek (even if you don't really need extra water) or picking out their own hiking stick. Make a game out of the hike; carry flower, tree and bird identification brochures and see how many species your kids can "I Spy". 

Talk to Each Other
This one may sound obvious, but hiking is the perfect time to have conversations with your kids away from the devices and distractions of the modern world. Ask your kids how it's going at school, what's going on with their friends or how they're feeling in general. If your child doesn't feel like chatting, come armed with your favorite campfire stories or songs. No matter what you choose to talk (or sing) about, kids will bask in the glow of your undivided attention.

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