Friday, June 24, 2011

5 Things to Consider When Hiking With Children

Written by Heather

A relic from Emily's early days on the trail.

Let's be honest, it's usually us parents that feel the need to slow down and breathe fresh air. You know, take a break from it all. It's true that kids need this too, but their ability to intellectualize the need does not always exist for them.

Adam and I love to pack up the car and drive away from the noise and concrete of our busy town. Back in March, when we first began talking about this crazy idea of once a week unplugging, we were sensitive to the possibility that our daughter would find it a less stellar idea than we did. 

Because we wanted this so much, we were careful how the idea was pitched to her. Rather than making the focus about the things we desired to take a break from, we placed the emphasis on the exciting things we wanted to add! Hiking! Picnics! Swimming! Dessert with friends! Bring a friend! Bring the dog!

She quickly felt the peace of our slow and easy day. She is easily on board now.

Things to Consider When Hiking With Kids:

1. Comfort

Quality gear/clothing is a pleasure to have when hiking, and the more you hike, it can also be an important safety consideration. But  when you are starting out, children will get along just fine without anything fancy for most family day hikes

Our daughter is still the most comfortable wearing her favorite Chuck Taylors.

My own ascent of Mt. Washington was at age 17 - I wore a pair of Reebok high tops (complete with velcro ankle straps!), jeans, and a hooded sweatshirt. The very things they tell you not to bring nowadays, and all I remember was having the time of my life. Young people are for more resilient than us older folks.

Listen to kids when they communicate what feels good and what doesn't.

2. Snacks

A mile or two into the woods on foot is not the time to test out new food. A good rule of thumb is to keep trail food simple and healthy on the tummy, but also something to look forward to. Handing out dark chocolate covered almonds one at a time to a weary young hiker just may be the thing that keeps the whole group moving along down the trail.

Snack ideas:
  • Fruit - hard fruit such as apples or pears works best (Fruit is my favorite thing on the trail so I'll put in the effort to carry delicate things such as berries and chunks of melon, I really look forward to it!)
  • Honey Sesame Brittle
  • Gorp
  • Hard Cheese - slices of cheddar are great with apples
  • Whole Grain Crackers with Nut Butter - fillable tubes are useful (though plastic)
  • Fruit Leather
  • Dried Fruit & Nuts
  • Homemade Granola Bars
  • Good Chocolate - if it's not too hot
  • Pita & Hummus
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly - made on toast for a little durability
  • Good Quality Jerky - you can make homemade to be sure of ingredients

3. Water

Emily thinks a hike with a water source is a winner. 

Along with this must come parents who don't mind her getting wet. We learned a long time ago to always say yes if she wants to go for a dunk. During warmer months she hikes with a bathing suit under her clothes. We also keep extra clothing and shoes in the car, or in our packs on a longer hike. Our hikes are planned around waterways and/or vistas - preferably both. 

Some children don't like to go in the water, but most  love to be near it. Skipping stones, floating sticks, making boats out of leaves and bark (found on the ground), looking for frogs or fish... water is highly entertaining!

Remember water shoes, they are great for safe exploring. A pair of goggles is fun too!

4. Bugs

Insects can sometimes break the experience for people of all ages. Understandably a nuisance, there are things you can do to lesson the disturbance.

  • Head Nets for Everyone - small, lightweight, inexpensive. Wearing a hat with a brim underneath keeps the net away from your face. Want to be completely protected or have allergy considerations? How about a full bug suit! (wow)
  • Long Sleeves and Pants - socks over pants in high grass where ticks are concerned.
  • LOTS of Bug Spray - we use homemade natural spray (similar to this recipe), and find it works best to use more liberally than you might think. 
  • Bug Season is Bug Season - while it's hard to avoid them entirely, early morning and late day hikes tend to be buggier than midday. 

A note about bug spray - Emily doesn't like the feel of bug spray on her skin. She wanted you to know about her method of dousing hats, socks, sleeves, and most importantly, a bandanna or two and tying them around her neck, head, wrists... wherever!

5. Bring a Friend or a Pet!

Some of you asked how to get older kids on board. Teenagers can be tentative when mom and dad come up with new ideas for forced family fun (weren't we the same way). Make it awesome! Invite a friend or bring the dog for companionship. Several kids? Let them take turns each week inviting a friend. Emily loves to bring our dog. 

We could discuss this forever, couldn't we? Sounds great to me...

What do you find is essential for fun hiking with children?
What is you favorite trail snack? (We're all looking for ideas!)

No comments:

Post a Comment