Taking Kids for a Hike
By Kathy Burns-Millyard
With a little planning and forethought, hiking with children can
be a fun and rewarding experience. Hiking is a wonderful way to help them
develop a love and respect for nature, stimulate their imagination and encourage
them to stay active.
Even Snoopy Hikes A great way to introduce children to the idea of
hiking is through stories featuring their favorite animated characters. Several
great children's books about hiking are available: "Curious George Goes Hiking,"
"Take a Hike Snoopy," "Berenstain Bears Blaze a Trail," and "Sheep Take a Hike,"
just to name a few. The stories give you an opportunity to talk about
expectations before leaving home and give you something to refer to on the
Where to Go Start small children on short trails over easy terrain. In
terms of ability, children can cover about 1 mile for every year they are in
age. They may not want to hike that far, but they probably have the ability to
do so. Short attention spans are kept busy on trails occupied with activities
along the way (rocks to climb on, water to splash in, etc.). Older children are
often motivated by the promise of something at the end a trail like a scenic
vista or waterfall. Don't forget to plan for bathroom breaks and rest stops
along the way.
Clothing and Footwear Ideally, children (like adults) should be prepared
for any weather and dressed in layers. They should also have access to suitable
rain gear. Properly fitting hiking boots or tennis shoes are a must to avoid
sore and tired feet. Leave open-toed shoes at home.
Water & Snacks Bring plenty of both. Fruit and salty snacks are best
(although sometimes candy works as a good motivator). Try to avoid bringing
snacks laden with sugar and caffeine. They cause spikes (then crashes) in energy
levels and tend to promote dehydration.
Matters of Safety Know the basics of administering first-aid. Allergic
reactions to insects or plants can turn urgent quickly. Keep children on the
trail and within your site at all times. Steer them clear of poisonous plants,
steep ledges, overhangs, and potentially dangerous falls. A small, travel sized
first aid kit is great for short hikes in the event of accidental scrapes or
Essential Gear Wet wipes are great for cleaning and double as toilet
paper if necessary (bring plastic bags to carry them home). Always carry a
compass and map, a flashlight, waterproof matches, bug dope, sunscreen and a
Opportunities for Fun & Learning
Hiking provides the perfect opportunity to instill in children a love and
respect for nature that will last a lifetime. Singing camp songs (quietly) or
designing a simple nature scavenger hunt is a great way to engage their minds
and teach them about the environment. Give them disposable cameras and let them
take pictures for a scrapbook or have them carry a nature journal to write in or
draw things they see. Don't forget to educate them about trail etiquette and the
importance of leaving plants and animals undisturbed.
By Kathy Burns-Millyard. This article is provided courtesy of DoHiking.com -
http://www.dohiking.com - a large and growing hiking website featuring
articles, tips, advice and shopping for hiking & camping enthusiasts.