Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hiking With Young Kids

Take a Hike!  I mean, take a real hike.  As in walking.  Please don't leave.  I'm nice.

We like to get outdoors as a family.  Hiking is one thing we can all do easily together.  Well, most of us.  Some of us have less in the coordination and balance department.  Namely....ME!  But we still hike. 

We've had the kids outdoors and hiking since they were wee ones.  The picture below is of when Chewy was only a month old.  In that amount of time, we've learned a few things. 

So call these lessons learned or tips.....I've got a few.

Dress for Your Hike
Know the terrain and conditions.  Proper shoes are important because blisters aren't fun.  We're fond of hats and sunglasses.  Sunscreen.  Pack rain gear or cold gear.  We have emergency ponchos and usually carry an extra jacket for each person.  I keep extra clothes in the car for the kids.....cause they like to get dirty or wet.  I think kids have an attraction to anything muddy or wet. 


Know Your Distance
If the kids are going to be walking....you're possibly going to be slow and stopping to look at a lot of things.  They may not be able to go far depending on their age.  We've figured a mile per age, at least that's what Scooter has been able to do.  He's up to 5 mile hikes now.  Chewy is not.  She'll walk some and then we're prepared with a backpack.  We've got an REI brand backpack.  At one time we owned two and Biker Boy and I each carried a kid on our back.  They're very helpful, plus you get more of a workout the bigger the kids get. 

Backpacks
Yep, kid backpacks are helpful.  You can stuff kids and things in them.  Regular backpacks are helpful too.  I usually carry one full of all sorts of things.  Food, sunscreen, toilet paper, plastic bags to carry out trash, dog treats, water, hand wipes, a band-aid, GPS, and extra clothing.  The kids have even started carrying backpacks.  Scooter sometimes wears one with his water bottle.  Chewy carries an empty backpack.  It's good for putting pine cones in. 

Snacks
Yep, backpacks can carry those snacks.  Snacks are good bribery.  "If we get to the lookout, you can have a snack."  "When we get back to the car, you can have a snack."  Plus, snacks are good energy food for hiking.  Pack what you like.  We're partial to Annie's bunny crackers, Clif bars, and Kashi granola bars.  (Psst...get a free Kashi snack here while supplies last.)


Water
Don't forget the water.  We've even got the dog trained to drink out of a water bottle.  Good times. 

Prepare for Danger
Hold the kids hands.  If not, hike with them next to you or close to you.  If there are 2 adults, hike with the kids between you.  And hiking poles are not just for balance and helping you get up and down hills.  They're make-shift weapons against any wild animal.  If you encounter something (bear, mountain lion, big dog, etc.), pick up the kids or place them behind you, make yourself look big, and make noise.  Don't run!  Unless there's a good reason to run.  All the bears we've encountered have sauntered off.  So far no mountain lion encounters and I hope to keep it that way. 

Prepare for the Unexpected (or rather the expected)
Yep, pack your backpack.  Plastic bags and toilet paper in our case.  Because walking is a laxative for young children.  No matter how often we make our children sit on the toilet before we leave or tell them to go.....we've always (ALWAYS!) got one child that has to go #2 while we're in the woods and nowhere near a bathroom.  Lately, both children have been doing a spectacular woodsie potty dance.  Fun times. Please tell me we're not the only hiking family to have to deal with #2 in the woods.  At least we always prepare for it now.  Nothing like carrying a bag full of stuff to get rid of in our backpack.  Just don't put it in the same pocket as the snacks.  Not yummy.  I'll spare you the pictures.  I've got them hidden for the day I need to bring them out and properly embarrass my children.  I'm not ready yet to do that on the internet.  See, I'm nice. 

Enjoy the View
Stop and look.  Climb trees.  Throw rocks in ponds and streams.  Point out birds and other animals.  Smell the flowers.  Collect a pine cone.  See a mushroom.  Watch the insects.  Just enjoy!

Reward
Snacks or treats when you're done.  Ohhhh.....ice cream.  A dip in a river or pool.  Pizza!  (Wait, no....I have child that dislikes pizza.) 

And for further info and laughs, you can check out other outdoor things I've written:
Camping with Kids
Hiking Books
Snowshoes for Kids
Downhill Skiing With Kids
Bike Helmets

So, take a hike.  A real one.  Tell me, where do you like to hike?  Any tips for hiking yourself or with some little ones?

*Remember to enter the giveaway for Gain products that I'm hosting.  You have until tomorrow!*

Speaking of wild animals....Just after I posted this I caught a bobcat walking outside my office window on our concrete path.  3 feet from me!  Shaking, I ran to get the camera and ran to our dining room where I saw it again out the window.  Sorry for the bad pictures out the window.  These are totally real pictures.  No photoshopping or anything, not even to touch up color.

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