- Clothing and shoes. It’s very important that your kids be in comfortable clothes and proper footwear. An uncomfortable child is an unhappy child, and an unhappy, complaining child won’t be any fun on a hike. Choose long pants that will protect against bug bites and scratches and make sure that nothing is too tight or otherwise uncomfortable. For short, uncomplicated hikes, sneakers are fine, but for longer walks or trickier trails, kids should have properly fitting hiking boots.
- Pack a backpack. Make sure you’ll bring everything you and your kids may need on the hike. Bring plenty of snacks and bottled water, because you’ll definitely need them. Trail mix, peanut butter crackers, dried fruit, and granola bars all make wonderful hiking snacks. These will help keep their energy, as well as yours, up for the hike. Sunscreen and bug spray are also very important, even in the fall. The last thing you want is a nasty sunburn or a mess of mosquito bites to remember you hike by. Finally, bring a first aid kit, just in case.
- Hiking sticks. Everybody going on the hike should have a hiking stick. These are useful for balance and support along the trail. You can buy manmade hiking sticks, or just look outside for smooth, sturdy wooden branches. A child’s hiking stick should be a comfortable weight and narrow enough to grasp comfortably.
- Plan a kid-friendly route. Remember that your children are new to this, and start with shorter distances. You’ll also have to plan for traveling at a child’s pace. Take plenty of breaks, and don’t expect to do a lot of brisk walking. Instead, take the time to point out different kinds of plants and wildlife. Show your kids how to look for signs left by animals, such as tracks, feathers, fur, or claw scratches. Bring along a field guide to flowers, birds or wildlife common to your area. You’ll be surprised by what their observant little eyes will find once they know what to look for.
Your kids will probably want to pick up pretty or interesting leaves, pebbles, and other things along the way, but check first to see if this is allowed. In state parks, you’re normally not allowed to leave anything other than footprints, nor to take anything other than photos. They can draw pictures of their treasures in a notebook and leave the specimens behind. With the proper planning and preparation, you may find that hiking becomes a favorite pastime for the entire family.
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