Hiking with Kids
Hiking is great exercise and great fun for babies, kids, and parents too! Here’s how to be prepared for a hike with the tykes that’s enjoyable for all ages.
Anyone who enjoyed hiking and/or camping before having kids will find that the rules change once a little one appears on the scene. Hiking with kids can be done. However – it just takes a bit more preparation and supplies. And a different, more patient, and more childlike mindset doesn’t hurt either!
Hiking With Babies
In some ways, hiking with small babies is easy: as long as they are breastfed babies who haven’t started on solids, the parents just need to bring diapers, a first aid kid with medications and rash cream, and a baby carrier.
Very small babies can be carried in a Baby Bjorn or Snugli-type front carrier, while bigger babies need to ride in a baby carrier designed for hiking. Baby carriers for hiking have a metal frame and often have other special features such as a canopy to keep the sun off the baby.
When taking a baby along on a hike or nature trail, it’s especially important to be aware of environmental dangers to the baby such as sunburn, windburn, biting bugs, and heat rash – not to mention diaper rash if baby rides in the carrier too long without a change.
Hiking With Toddlers
When children are ages 2-3 it is a difficult time to take them on a hike: toddlers don’t want to ride in a carrier, but they don’t want to walk for very long either – at least not in the same direction as the parents. They may prefer to dart off the path into a patch of poison ivy!
Instead of getting frustrated, it’s more helpful to adopt the “toddler mindset” and see the world as they see it. That means leaving plenty of time to explore the path, pick up every stick that looks like a good walking stick, and stop to help caterpillars off the trail and into the grass so that they won’t get stepped on.
Taking Bigger Kids on a Hike
Hiking with older kids is easier, but it’s still important to come prepared:
Food for the trail should include water (a quart per day for each “big person” for an all-day hike), granola or trail mix, energy bars, and fruit – snacks that won’t get crushed and will give a quick boost of energy for continuing the hike.
A plastic bag for trash, tissues, and baby wipes to clean everyone’s hands will come in very handy.
A first-aid kit is easy to prepare, with Infant or Children’s Tylenol, Benedryl, antiseptic pads, adhesive bandages, antibacterial ointment, and anything else that might be necessary for specific needs (such as an EpiPen for a child with allergies).
Sunglasses and Hats are a Must for Sunny Trails
Kids who are old enough to wear a small pack can carry supplies such as a sweater, their water bottle, a snack or two, and maybe some toys such as a Frisbee or ball.
Tools to help enjoy the trail can include field guides, binoculars, a magnifying glass, and perhaps a container to put bugs in while kids study them. On the other hand, it’s fun to just bring a digital camera to take pictures of flora and fauna and then identify them at home – it depends on what the kids enjoy and how much the parents want to carry.
Kids of any age can enjoy a hike but should be taught to practice good “trail ethics”: no littering, no writing on trees or rocks, no yelling or loud noises that can disturb other hikers and/or wildlife. That way, they will learn to appreciate nature and respect other humans, too.