One of my favorite go-to outdoor activities with my children is going to the mountains. When my firstborn became a proficient walker, I began taking him on short hikes. I remember spending hours in the trails up the street from our house every spring and summer after he learned how to walk. He was about a year and a half old, and they were more like walks into and out of the trailhead.
I’m looking forward to this new season because it will be my 17-month-old daughter’s first season in the mountains. But my nerves are on edge knowing I have two kids to take care of now.
For those of you wondering, I go into the trails with my children by myself. I am constantly asked how I’m not afraid to do it alone. I’m not better than anyone or an expert at anything; I have decided that if I don’t shake the nerves and just get out with my kids, I’ll never get out. I’m also not naive; I know I cannot go into anything with two young children unprepared.
Here are a few things I’ve learned hiking with my children and that have helped me be confident to experience the outdoors with them.
10 Tips for Hiking With Kids
1. Choose shoes and attire accordingly. Hiking involves rocks, dirt, and plants that can hurt you and your child. Ensuring that you and your child are using appropriate shoes and clothing — preferably shoes with grip, breathable pants and a hat — will make the difference in whether the hike is enjoyable or a bust.
2. Always use sunscreen. Most trails have little shade, so it is guaranteed that your and your child’s skin will be exposed to the sun long enough to cause some discomfort if left unprotected. I recommend lathering yourself before your children so you don’t forget. (Think of it as putting your oxygen mask on first.)
3. Protect yourself against bugs. In addition to protecting you and your child from the sun, also remember that there mostly likely will be bugs in the trails. Consider a child-friendly insect repellent or essential oils that can do the same.
4. Learn about common poisonous plants. Poison ivy and poison oak are two common plants that every outdoorsy person should be aware of. Knowing what they look like and teaching your children to avoid them is important to avoid an emergency.
5. Be aware of the length and difficulty of the trail. Research the trail you plan to explore with your child before doing it. Most trails have online reviews that will give you an idea if the trail is appropriate for your child. You know your child best, so choose your hike accordingly. Remember that if it’s too long of a trail, you can hike as much or as little of it as you want. A hike is a hike no matter how long it is.
6. Stay hydrated. This one is self-explanatory. Take enough water for you and your child.
7. Carry snacks. Snacks seem to be a must for my children, it doesn’t matter how far we are going. Snacks help encourage a fun hike with something to look forward to when there is a shady spot for a break.
8. Carry a trash bag (and a plastic glove if available). This has turned into a must for me — not only for my own trash, but for other people’s trash. Teaching my children to keep our trails clean is important to me. I want them to know that if they don’t do their part, there may be no trails to use one day.
9. Be aware of the weight you will be carrying. Your child may request (or demand) for you to carry them at some point during the hike. Choose what you pack wisely because the weight of that plus the weight of your child may be overwhelming 20 minutes into the trail while standing under the sun.
10. Do not have expectations. Holding back on expectations will promote an appreciation for hiking in your child. If you love to hike, this will benefit you in the long run as you’ll be able to enjoy longer and more intense hikes with your child as they get older.
I am no outdoors expert, but I do care to provide a different perspective. My perspective has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, by the moms who provide me support. I am here to provide you support. Don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy the outdoors with your children!
What are your hiking musts? —Jasmin