Cultivating a love of nature is one of the best things we can do to protect our children's physical, mental and emotional health. Hiking is a great way to get the whole family outdoors...but if you're not prepared things can wrong fast. Experienced outdoorswoman and mama of 2, Corey Hunt, breaks down the most common mistakes parent make and how to avoid them for happier trails.
As my kids have grown, so has their hiking experience. Not too long ago, we were “that'' family, the ones everyone was looking at on the trail.
We have carted crying kids and muddy kids soaked from head to toe down more trails than I want to admit. But we survived and learned from our mistakes, and surprisingly our kids still love to hike.
Heed the following trail advice, and avoid these common mistakes when hiking with kids.
The first mistake many of us parents make...
...when taking our kids hiking is dressing them for the wrong climate, either too warm or too cold. My first piece of advice is dress in layers.
Kids may say they are warm at the beginning of a hike, but wind and elevation can make them cold really quickly. It’s important to have options on the trail.
When dressing in layers, remember to keep your base layer warm and dry. It’s recommended to start with a synthetic base layer that wicks moisture away from the skin. It can be challenging to find inexpensive synthetic kids’ clothing, but it is the best fabric to keep them dry and warm.
If you don’t want to splurge, pack an extra cotton shirt in case they get sweaty or decide to take an unexpected swim. It’s especially important to keep their core warm and dry when hiking in the cold because if they start to sweat in cotton, they will get cold.
The more clothing options on a hike, the better.
This brings me to my next piece of advice: the more clothing options on a hike, the better. We have nicknamed my kids “wet foot” and “soggy bottom” for good reason.
If there is water nearby they will live up to their trail names. More than once they have lived up to them before the hike even began.
I have learned to pack everyone extra socks, and on longer hikes (if it’s not summer) I will pack an extra pair of pants for each kid as well. The extra weight in my pack is worth a tearless hike. Avoid the common mistake of not having a dry change of clothes.
My kids love playing in the woods. Rocks become mountains to scale, big leaves become treasures, and sometimes my kids come home with more pebbles in their pockets than they left on the trail.
I advise parents of young hikers to take their time on trails. Let the youngest member of the hiking party set the pace. Avoid the mistake of setting a quick pace, leading to kids who get tired quickly and bored. Try to make the hike fun, many times my kids remember a lizard we found or an unusual tree rather than the view from the top.
My last piece of advice is know when to rest.
On average, kids take twice as many steps as adults during the day and may need to rest more frequently. If the youngest hiker sets the hiking pace, they usually set the rest breaks as well.
Also, snacks and resting go hand in hand. I am rarely successful getting my kids to move when they are hungry, and never without whining. The younger the child, the more snack and rest breaks they will require.
Kids love playing outside, and can enjoy hiking from a very young age. Follow the advice of a seasoned trail veteran for less mishaps and more enjoyable hikes.
As a parent, you learn to adapt to any situation, and on the trail is no different. Be as prepared as possible, but roll with the punches. You may end up with some great stories, and memories that will last a lifetime.
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