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Walking with Kids
 
Fun Family Trips
 
 
 
 
Walking with Kids

Brittany, France

 

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Hiking is a great way to introduce kids to nature and the outdoors. For many, it is the ideal family adventure. Whether you depart on a walking holiday or take a day hike as part of a cultural tour, hiking doesn't require much in the way of specialist gear. You can walk with children at any age; hiking with babies and toddlers is not as overwhelming as it sounds. And you can hike anywhere. Hiking with kids requires nothing more than planning, patience and flexibility.

There is much to be said for hiking with infants and tots. With an appropriate front or back child carrier, young children won't slow you down. And the vantage point from the kid carrier is about more than the view, it creates a unique opportunity for rider and walker to connect. But when hiking with small kids you will need to give forethought to the destination as well as the trail. Curious toddlers may need to get down and run every hour or two. Trails that require balance, such as loose rock or steep climbs, are inappropriate when carrying a child in a pack; their movement affects your stability. Weather conditions that ok for an adult may not be ideal for babies or even toddlers. Yet the biggest challenge to hiking with tykes is gear. You will be carrying significantly more than when you last hiked solo. What's more, 'hike it in hike it out' takes on a whole new meaning with diapers.

For many parents, the most challenging age to hike with kids is from 3 to 6. They are too heavy to carry and too small to walk long distances. But there are a few things you can do to make hiking at this age fun and extend the walk a little bit each time. Start slow. Select a trail you know they can complete and be sure it has lots of entertaining features - playground, picnic area, river, waterfall, wildlife - both along and at the end of the route. Get them excited about your hike. Talk to them about the trip the day or night before. Let them look on as you pack. Point out interesting things along the way (insects, animals, flowers and even rocks) and show them where you are walking on the map.

Hiking with school aged children and tweens is about purpose and reason. Get them involved in the trip and they will be engaged in the adventure. Scavenger hunts and cameras are a start but after a hike or two children this age are likely to require more. Teach them to read a map and use a compass and let them take turns leading the group. Seek their opinions on trip objectives, such as where and how far to hike each day. Assign each child a task from filling water bottles to researching wildlife on the trail. End each segment of your hike at a destination that is of interest to them and praise the kids on a hike well done.

The biggest challenge to hiking with teens may be you. Are you as fit as your 16 year old son?
Fun Family Walking Trips
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