Few things are more terrifying than trying a new activity with a child. Reactions can swing from hyperactive joy to intense meltdowns within seconds, with no in between. It’s enough to make many parents consider the “Bubble Boy” tactic.
Fortunately for the outdoor community, we’re made of tougher stuff. Heck, we’ll take our kids into the bounty of nature and we’ll make them enjoy it, or else.
If you’ve got an itch to grab those hiking boots and hit the trail with young ones in tow, we say more power to you. Just follow our simple tips and you’ll hopefully avoid the potential temper tantrums that lie in wait for you around every corner.
Make them comfortable
This means proper gear — and SNACKS. The amount of snacks you will need to keep that child satisfied is directly proportionate to how smoothly you want this little jaunt to go. Some of our top picks include trail mix (because chocolate chunks — hello, bribery tactics), dried fruit, granola bars and celery sticks with peanut butter, although there are plenty more out there.
Make sure if your toddler or child is going to be walking for any extended amount of time that you get them fitted properly with hiking boots. Most sporting-goods stores, such as REI, that carry children’s hiking boots will be able to fit your child accurately.
Keep plenty of hydration on hand, make sure your first-aid kit is up to date and don’t forget to bring along sun protection, including hats, sunscreen and sunglasses, if your kid is cool enough to rock them.
The most vital aspect of bringing your child into the outdoors is making sure all of their safety needs are met. Bring basics like a map, compass and fuel, along with kids’ specific needs.
Make the ending worth it
If you can swing it and nature is on board, try to plan your hike so it ends with something cool. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; any old lake, creek, tire swing, giant boulder or panoramic view will do.
The important detail in this tip is to give kids something to look forward to, something to anticipate. That way, instead of being left with a sweaty, grumpy mess giving you the dirtiest look known to mankind at the end of your hike, you’ll be left with a smiling child.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Please, please listen to us here: DO NOT go for the marathon session on your first hike out with your kid. You may be able to handle a four-hour hike into the vast wilderness without a toy in sight, but (most) children do not have the emotional capacity, muscle tone or patience to withstand your favorite trail.
The key here: Put yourself in the shoes of a tired, hungry toddler. This may provide some perspective on just how long your hike needs to be.
Pick a trail you have history with
Following along the theme of our last tip: If you can, take the littles on a trail that you have been on before. At least for their first hike.
Eliminating the possibility of sheer cliffs, dangerous animals and other dangers intrinsic to the trail will leave you to focus on more important things, like helping your kids pick out their very first walking stick.
Check out more hiking tips from GrindTV