Spring is kicking into high gear, which means it’s time to hit the trails and start exploring the great outdoors. Hiking solo can be a great way to indulge in a little alone time, but it’s even more fun when joined by your friends and family. Hiking is a great way for people of all ages to embrace the great outdoors and get their heart rates pumping at the same time. Kids, teens, and adults alike can all benefit from a trek through the wilderness or a hike up a picturesque peak. While hiking as a family can be very fun and enriching, adding children to your expedition will require a few additional safety precautions. This guide explores some of the most important outdoor safety tips for hiking with kids to ensure that your family hiking expedition is diverting and free of danger.
Preparedness is key to hosting a safe and fun family hike. Be sure to prepare your pack with all the essentials, as well as a few back-up items in case of an emergency. Make sure your pack is stocked with sunscreen and snacks, as this will help curb your kids’ midday cravings. Some great hiking snacks for kids include trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, and bananas. It may also be in your best interest to pack a small first-aid kit. Kids are quite adventurous and like to think they’re invincible. As a result, they find themselves with cuts and bruises much more frequently than adults. Be sure to stock your first-aid kit with bandages, disinfectant ointment, and antiseptic wipes. You may also consider packing tweezers in case of splinters and an ice pack in case of a rolled or sprained ankle.
Whether hiking with adults or kids, it’s always best to adhere to the buddy system. Sticking together as much as possible will decrease the likelihood that any member of your party may become lost or injured. Your family doesn’t need to hold hands for the entire hike, of course, but it’s important to remain in sight of your fellow hikers. Kids can run ahead, but be sure that they’re always in your line of sight and vice versa.
Most forest preserves and nature parks provide all guests with a map of the park. This is to ensure that the flora and fauna remain in pristine condition and that all park guests remain safe. As such, it’s important to heed these trail maps and stick to the marked paths only. Instruct your kids not to wander off the path, and teach them the importance of leaving all flora and fauna in the park where it belongs.
When instructing your children to stay on the marked trails, it’s also important to teach them about potential trail hazards. Even when you stay on the marked paths you may encounter potentially hazardous plants or animals. Utilize these moments as learning opportunities, and work together with your children to identify poison ivy and poison oak. Teach them what to do should they encounter a poisonous plant, and teach them how to behave when in the presence of a wild animal. Be sure to also research trail closures and warnings before embarking on your family hiking expedition. This will help you choose the safest route for your family and prepare you for any potential hazards you may encounter, such as slippery rock surfaces, flooded trails, or rivers with a particularly strong current.
Perhaps the most important outdoor safety tip for hiking with kids is to dress appropriately for the current weather conditions and the hike at hand. Springtime weather can change at the drop of a hat so you should prepare for anything. Choose clothing items that will keep you warm and dry, regardless of the changing weather conditions, but won’t impede your mobility during your hike. Try to choose lightweight pieces by trusted outdoor clothing brands, such as Kuhl Outdoor Clothing, as these items are high-quality, durable, and weather-resistant. It may also be in your best interest to dress in layers and pack an extra set of clothes for your kids, just in case. Spring can be quite damp in the Pacific Northwest, and a sudden change in weather is not uncommon. A wet kid is often a whiny kid. Packing an extra set of clothes for your kids will ensure that they’re warm, dry, and worry-free throughout the entire hike. Be sure to also use a water-resistant pack and durable hiking boots, as these will help you traverse even the muddiest trails.
After a long day of hiking, it’s always good to take a little bit of a breather. Though your kids may seem like boundless balls of energy, they will likely still tire more quickly than the adults in your party. Depending on the age of your kids, you may need to take more frequent breaks, but don’t let this deter you. Use these moments of rest as an opportunity to bond with your family or learn about the wildlife that surrounds you. Take a brief snack and water break to discuss the things you’ve seen and experienced while on your hike. Taking frequent breaks throughout your hike may extend the length of the journey as a whole, but it will decrease the likelihood of a tantrum in the long run.
When choosing the route for your family hike, take your child’s skill level, interest, and ability into consideration. Choosing a hike that’s far beyond their physical abilities will cause your kids to become exhausted quickly, and you’ll likely need to carry them for a portion of the hike. Choose a path that’s within a reasonable length and skill level of your child’s abilities. If possible, try to choose a trail that circles back on itself. This way you won’t need to factor in the return trip when planning your hike and your kids will always have something new to look at.
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