Getting into the wild with kids is not only a great fun and contribution to family quality time. It’s a great opportunity to take kids away from their TVs, computers and video games. Most of my childhood memories are actually from family campings, fishing, hunting. My dad was crazy about all these and I have inherited his love for outdoor. Being on trail also help kids to develop a deep connection to the nature. From this connection comes understanding of our role in this huge scene. And of course, kids are pationate about adventures. However, getting kids to the trail is not always that easy. As dad of 3 kids who constantly hike I wanted to share with you my experience and give you some tips on how to pass common pitfalls on the way.
Plan your adventure
- Trail difficulty and length. Look, I know, you want to hit the trail and climb that mountain on the horizon. There is nothing bad about it. All you need to do is to find really many options to backtrack, shorten the planned walk. There maybe places that are too dangerous for kids to pass or maybe upon getting to some point your son will be so tired that only option is to take and cary him all the way back. Been there done that. When you plan your hike take into consideration that you may need to turn back or shortcut it at any point. Plan shorter alternatives to the main trail.
- Trail Conditions. When planning don’t include steep climbs, or be prepared to carry all your kids uphill. Think what to do in case of heavy rain or very hot weather. Always check the weather before getting out. Generally muddy roads are OK. Kids love to slosh in mud and get some dirt on the shoes. But too much mud is very hard to pass through.
- Places of interest. It is important that your trail will include some interesting features like caves to explore with a headlamps, shallow streams to pass and play with water a bit, feed those small fishes.
- Learn flora and fauna of the area, take tiny (!) guide to local plants, animals and insects. Making fire with kids is time consuming but amazing activity. Both parents and kids love it. Also searching for edible plants and mushrooms could be very interesting and enjoyable thing to do.
Motivation is the most important factor. It is worst when your child don’t want to walk any more.
Here are some tips:
- Buy hiking gear for kids. Kids love new toys (actually me too :)) and they want to be “like dad”. Get the backpack with all the fancy stuff. I bought small camelbak backpacks with water bladder for two elder kids. In the pack we have a wistle, compass, headlamp, snack and water. Don’t let your kids carry full bladder. I never fill it above 0.5L mark. Water is most heavy item we carry on trips. Keep weight of kids backpack low.
- Keep kids involved. Show them on map where are you now and where trail goes. Teach them how to read maps, use compass and read landmarks if possible. Show them anything you find interesting: plants, animals, insects. Ask them to search in the guide for what they see and learn about it.
- Appointing responsibilities. You should always have a FAK (First Aid Kit – more on this in a later post) especially when you travel with kids. Don’t be fanatic about covering all possible emergency scenarios. Keep it simple. I’m giving my kids to carry FAK and the repair kit. This could be strange, but this help alot. When my son is taking the FAK he ask me to call him “doctor” 🙂 I don’t know, but this helped me to keep them going.
Comfortable footwear and clothes
Footwear and clothes should be comfortable and light. Forget about hiking boots for kids until you really need them due to cold or tactic hike. Take sneakers they wear in school. Layering system will work for kids too.
- Always take extra clean and dry clothes for kids! This includes everything: pants, shirts, underwear, socks. Put it into dry bag or at least plastic bag. Even if you don’t plan to pass streams, your kid can accidentally get wet even from a water bottle. Wet kid is cold kid and that’s the end of your journey.
- Take food your kids love. Snacks is a good way to keep them going. Don’t take alot of these as it’s not healthy. We always take sliced carrots, apples despite the weight of these is high.
Take more rest breaks
I should say, even take breaks before your kids are tired and ask for a rest. Always praise them for how well they do. Remember that it’s the kid who set the pace, not you!
So far my findings. You are welcome to add yours!