It’s often said that kids don’t get tired on hikes, they get bored. Kids don’t appreciate hours of walking with little variety. Adults sit down to relax when they have a break while kids will take a break from walking by running around, playing, and probably eating.
Make it achievable and fun
A shorter easier walk is often much more rewarding than a long difficult slog with kids. They are likely to make a lot of detours, climb every boulder in sight and explore along the way. And surely this is what it’s all about. If you’re a goal-focused person, just remember, is it really the top of that peak you’re aiming for, or is it a lifelong love of hiking and the great outdoors?
If the weather is looking awful or way too hot, reconsider your plans.
Pick your walks. Family friendly walks are easier, and have a variety of interesting things. While most kids love climbing over and up things, doing it for long periods can be tough going, especially for little legs.
Factor in plenty of breaks. Remember the journey is the destination, there are heaps of adventures to be had along the way on most walks, and kids need constant refueling.
If you’re backpacking overnight, make their load a reasonable weight. Younger kids should be able to carry some clothes, wet weather jacket, and a drink bottle. This is for safety if nothing else.
Most kids from 10 years can carry their sleeping back, clothes, a drink bottle and some of the food. If they are starting to streak ahead, slow them down with a little more of the extra weight the adults are carrying. If you play it right, it will soon be you just carrying your clothes and a drink bottle. Let them pack their own back, but check they don’t add too many extras you find halfway through the walk when they are complaining of the weight.
It’s a good idea to go hiking with friends. There are more people to chat with and have fun, and kids grumble less when their friends are around.
Keep them fueled
Active kids eat all the time. They need a wide variety of snacks. Crackers, cheese, dried fruit, sweet cookies – anything as long as they like it, it’s halfway healthy and it’s not too heavy to carry. Take more food and drink than you think you’ll need as it can be difficult to judge their needs and the heavier pack is worth reducing the risk of grumbling kids with their grumbling tummies. Some sweets are ok, provided they eat them with foods that sustain them longer.
While on the hike, make it fun. Talk, chat, sing, play games, whatever takes you and your child’s fancy.
All kids should know a bit about safety, no matter how small they are. Number one rule must be that they stick with the adults. It’s a big wide world out there, and it’s easy enough for us big kids to get lost. If they do lose sight of you, they should know what to do. The first thing is to not panic. Secondly they must stay where they are, or close by where they can be easily seen. They should listen out and shout for you. Ideally they should carry a whistle to use in times like this.
All kids should have an idea of what to do if they encounter danger, for example, a snake. Kids often find potential dangers and what to do about them a fascinating topic while walking.
Take a decent first aid kit, including plenty of sticking plasters (pictures on them help) and a space blanket. Very rarely does something happen, but it’s important to be prepared, especially when with kids.