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24 Tips For Hiking with kids

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Hiking with kids can be a wonderful adventure, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. From keeping little ones entertained to ensuring everyone’s safety, there’s a lot to consider. As parents who have hiked with 3 kids, 2 grandchildren, and dozens of neices and nephews, we have learned a lot about hiking with kids.

In this post, we’ve gathered 24 practical tips to make hiking with your kids fun, safe, and memorable. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a newbie, these tips will help you and your family enjoy the great outdoors with confidence and joy.

A family hiking with thier kids

  1. Start Small: Choose short and easy trails to match your child’s fitness and interest levels. Begin with trails that are less than a mile long and relatively flat. This way, kids can build their stamina and confidence without feeling overwhelmed.

  2. Pack Snacks: Bring plenty of healthy snacks and water to keep energy levels up. Kids burn a lot of energy while hiking, so pack a variety of snacks like fruit, nuts, and granola bars. On one of our hikes, a simple snack break with apples and peanut butter gave us the energy boost we needed to continue. Plus, snacks are a great way to motivate kids to keep going!

  3. Comfortable Shoes: Ensure kids wear sturdy, comfortable hiking shoes. Blisters and sore feet can quickly ruin a hike. Make sure your child’s shoes fit well and provide good support. We once made the mistake of letting my younest son wear his regular sneakers, and he ended up with blisters that cut our hike short.

  4. Use Sunscreen: Protect their skin from the sun, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, including the back of the neck and ears. We always carry a travel-size bottle in our backpacks to reapply during breaks. Even on a cloudy hike, our youngest will still manage to get a mild sunburn, reminding us that UV rays penetrate through clouds.

  5. Carry a First Aid Kit: Always have a small first aid kit handy for minor scrapes and injuries. A basic first aid kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. Kids are bound to trip and fall occasionally, and having supplies on hand can quickly take care of minor injuries. We have an in-depth article on how you can easily save money by putting together your own first-aid kit for hiking.

  6. Teach Trail Etiquette: Explain the importance of staying on the trail and respecting nature. Help your kids understand why it’s crucial to stay on the marked paths and avoid disturbing plants and wildlife. During one hike, my son spotted some shiney rocks off the trail and wanted to collect them. We used it as a teaching moment about the importance of preserving nature for others to enjoy.

  7. Plan Regular Breaks: Take frequent breaks to rest and enjoy the surroundings. Kids need more frequent breaks than adults, so plan to stop every 15-30 minutes. Use these breaks to enjoy the view, have a snack, or explore interesting spots. On one of our hikes, frequent breaks allowed us to spot a deer quietly grazing nearby.

  8. Bring a Map: Give your child a sense of responsibility by letting them help with navigation. My son loves holding the map and pointing out where we are. It keeps him engaged and makes the hike feel like an adventure. Plus, it’s a great way to teach basic map-reading skills.

  9. Engage Their Interest: Point out interesting plants, animals, and rocks along the way. Keep kids engaged by turning the hike into a learning experience. On one hike, we found a fascinating lizard, and it sparked a whole conversation about reptiles and their habitats.

  10. Set a Pace: Walk at a pace suitable for the youngest or slowest hiker. Kids have shorter legs and tire more easily, so set a pace that everyone can comfortably maintain. It’s important to make sure everyone is enjoying the hike. Plus you will see more if you slow down so look at it as a bonus.

  11. Keep it Fun: Play games like “I Spy” or have a scavenger hunt to keep kids engaged. Games can make the hike more enjoyable and distract kids from feeling tired. We often play “I Spy,” and it’s amazing how it keeps everyone entertained and observant of their surroundings.

  12. Hydrate Often: Encourage kids to drink water regularly to stay hydrated. Dehydration can happen quickly, especially in warm weather. Make sure everyone takes frequent water breaks. We usually had our kids carry their own water once they were old enough, but you will need to use your own judgement.

A family hiking with thier kids

  1. Wear Hats: Protect their heads from sun and heat with wide-brimmed hats. A good hat can protect against sunburn and heat exhaustion. Before we moved to New Mexico we often went without hats. Now we know better and even bring extras for our kids just in case one gets lost.

  2. Be Prepared for Weather: Carry rain gear and be ready for sudden changes in weather. Weather can change quickly, especially in the mountains. We were once caught in a sudden rain shower, and having ponchos in our pack kept us dry and cheerful. It’s always better to be over-prepared than caught off guard by the elements.

  3. Teach Leave No Trace: Instill the principles of leaving nature as you found it. Educate your kids about not leaving any trash behind and respecting wildlife. My kids love the idea of being nature’s protectors, and they always remind each other to pick up litter. You can read more about the Leave No Trace Philosophy here.

  4. Carry Binoculars: Bring binoculars for bird watching and spotting distant landmarks. Binoculars can make the hike more exciting. When our kids were little we would let them use our, but now they have amazing kids binoculars that are very affordable.

  5. Let Them Lead: Allow kids to take turns leading the hike to boost their confidence. Kids love being leaders so give them a chance. Our middle child used to really enjoy telling us in great detail about all of the things we were seeing.

  6. Have a Plan B: Be flexible and have an alternative plan if the hike is too challenging. Don’t be afraid to change plans in case a trail turns out to be too difficult or something changes. Flexibility ensures that the day remains fun and stress-free.

  7. Pack Light: Keep your backpack light, but include essentials like snacks, water, and a first aid kit. This is especially hard to do when you have little ones but carrying a heavy pack is tiring. It took some time but we eventually figured out what was necessary, and what could wait in the car.

  8. Dress Bright: Wear bright colors to make it easier to keep track of everyone. Bright colors help you keep an eye on your kids. When our kids were young enough to let us dress them we would put them in bright colors that really stood out. By the time they were old enough to pick out their own clothes, they understood why wearing bright color is so important.

  9. Bring a Camera: Let kids take photos to document their adventure. Kids love taking photos but letting them hike with your phone may not be the best idea. Instead get one of those digital cameras for kids. It’s interesting seeing what your kids found important enough to take pictures of.

  10. Encourage Observation: Teach kids to use all their senses to explore the environment. Encourage your kids to listen to the birds, smell the flowers, and touch the leaves. This multisensory approach makes the hike more enriching and memorable.

  11. Know the Route: Familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand to avoid getting lost. Knowing the trail helps prevent getting lost and keeps the hike smooth. We always research the trail beforehand and use GPS to ensure we stay on track. This also makes it easy to know the best places to stop for a break.

  12. Have Fun: Above all, ensure the hike is an enjoyable experience for everyone. The most important thing is to have fun. Our best hikes are the ones where we laugh, explore, and enjoy being together in nature.

Tips for hiking with kids | 9NEWS

Before You Go

Hopefully you found a couple nuggets of wisdom to make your next hiking trip with the little ones even more enjoyable. If you have any tips of your own you would like to share please find us on social media. Before you go we would like to recommed checking out our gude to avoiding snake bites while hiking. Kids are naturally curious so knowing how to avoid snakes is very important.

In Conclusion

Hiking with kids can be a rewarding and memorable experience for the whole family. By following these tips, you can ensure that your outdoor adventures are safe, fun, and educational. From starting with short trails and packing plenty of snacks to teaching trail etiquette and involving kids in navigation, these strategies will help keep your children engaged and enthusiastic about exploring nature. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the journey and create lasting memories together. So pack your gear, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on exciting adventures with your little explorers.

Happy hiking!

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By Summer and Bill

Photo of Summer and Bill

Summer and Bill are the dynamic duo behind Adventureite.com, a blog dedicated to inspiring others to explore the great outdoors. With a combined lifetime of experience traveling and adventuring across America, they have a wealth of knowledge to share. From hiking to camping, kayaking to travel, Summer and Bill are passionate about helping others discover the beauty of the natural world.

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