Tips For Hiking With Small Children | Hikers University

Turn your family hikes into cherished memories. Learn the art of hiking with small children through our invaluable insights.

Hiking with small children demands preparation. Ensure their comfort with suitable hiking gear, choose shorter, family-friendly trails, pack essentials like snacks, water, and first aid, and prioritize safety. A well-planned hike equals happy kids and memorable outdoor adventures.

As an avid adventurer and seasoned hiker, I bring firsthand experience. With numerous family hikes, I've honed expert opinions on navigating trails with small children. Let's embark on this journey together, drawing from my recent expertise for unforgettable outdoor escapades.

Table of contents


Best Tips for Hiking with Small Children

Hiking with small children can be a rewarding and bonding experience for the entire family. It is an opportunity to introduce kids to the joys of exploring the great outdoors while fostering a love for nature and physical activity.

Proper planning, safety measures, and age-appropriate activities are crucial to ensure a positive and memorable experience for all.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of kids hiking is of utmost importance. This includes selecting appropriate equipment and clothing based on the weather conditions, packing essential items like hiking snacks, a water bottle, and first aid kits, and constantly monitoring their energy levels and comfort throughout the hike.

Basics of Kids Hiking

Taking your kids on a hike can be a wonderful way to create lasting memories and instill a love of nature in their hearts (most kids love nature and enjoy hiking). Before you head out on the trails, there are a few key tips to consider when hiking with children.

Age-appropriate Hikes

Selecting the right type of hike for your family is crucial to ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience. Choose kid-friendly hikes that are not too steep or long, allowing younger kids to navigate the terrain easily.

As your children grow and gain experience, gradually introduce longer hikes with more elevation gain and challenging elements. Hiking with kids offers great insights into introducing children to hiking and keeping their experience fun and engaging.

Importance of Pace

When hiking with children, it's important to set a pace that accommodates their developing skills and energy levels. Allowing kids to set speed can reduce the potential for exhaustion or injury.

Remember that kids excited by the journey will be fun to be with rather than reaching the end destination. Remember to factor in frequent breaks for rest, your own snacks, and exploration. A relaxed pace ensures a positive experience for the whole family and helps to keep spirits high.

Use of Guidebook

Having a guidebook or map on hand while hiking with children adds an educational element to the adventure. Guidebooks often provide details on local flora, fauna, and geology. Involving your kids in navigating the hiking trail encourages their natural curiosity and makes them active participants in the journey.

When planning your expedition, remember to choose age-appropriate hikes, maintain a pace that suits your children, and always carry a guidebook to make the adventure more educational and engaging.

Safety Measures

While hiking with small children, it's crucial to ensure their safety.

First Aid Essentials

Before heading out on a hike, it's important to pack a first aid kit containing essential items such as band-aids, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and any medication your child might need. Always check the kit before family outings to ensure it's fully stocked and up-to-date.

Investing in some basic first aid training is also a good idea so you can confidently respond to minor injuries or emergencies on the trail.

Safety Whistle and Buddy System

A safety whistle is a helpful tool for teaching children how to call for help when they're lost or separated from the group. Ensure each child carries a whistle and knows how to use it properly. Teach them to blow it in three short blasts, the universal distress signal for help.

Another crucial safety measure is the buddy system. When hiking with small children, ensure they always have a designated trail buddy, such as older Kids or a parent.

Keeping children in pairs or groups can greatly reduce the chances of anyone getting lost or wandering off the trail. The buddy system also promotes cooperation, support, and teamwork among the family members.

Equipment and Clothing

Hiking with small children can be a wonderful and rewarding experience for the whole family. One of the essential aspects of planning a successful family hike is ensuring everyone has the appropriate equipment and clothing.

Essential Hiking Gear

Having the right gear can make all the difference when enjoying a hike with your kids.

Some essential items to consider include:

  • Backpack: A hiking backpack is crucial for carrying all the necessary items for your outing. A front sling-style carrier is a better option for children under six months old, while older kids can graduate to a backpack-style carrier.
  • Hiking shoes or boots: Ensure other families and other kids have well-fitting, supportive footwear for the hike. While specific hiking shoes are a great option, comfortable sneakers with good traction can also work for shorter, less strenuous, and favorite hikes.
  • First-aid kit: Always bring a well-stocked first-aid kit to address any injuries or emergencies that may arise during the hike.
  • Water and snacks: Keep kids hydrated and energized with plenty of water and kid-friendly snacks, such as granola bars or fruit.

Sunscreen and Clothing

Protecting your family from the sun and the elements is crucial when planning a hike.

Some essential items to consider include:

  • Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all family members, and don't forget to reapply throughout the day as needed.
  • Sun hats: Wide-brimmed hats can help shield your kids from the sun and keep them cool.
  • Clothing: Dress your kids in layers so they can easily adapt to changing weather conditions. Select moisture-wicking materials for added comfort, and avoid cotton clothing, which can become heavy and uncomfortable when wet.
  • Insect repellent: Keep the bugs at bay by applying insect repellent before hitting the trail.

Here’s a table showing a hiking essentials checklist for small children

Item Purpose
Proper-Fitting Gear Ensures Comfort and Safety
Sunscreen Protect against harmful UV rays
Insect Repellant Guards against bug bites
Snacks and Water Keeps energy levels up
First Aid Kit For minor injuries and emergencies
Wet Wipes For cleanups on the go to instill kids' love
Extra Clothing Be prepared for changing weather
Child Carrier Backpack Carries tire little other hikers
Map and Compass Navigation and teaching tool

Outdoor Education

It can play a significant role in a child's development, teaching them to connect with nature and develop valuable skills. While hiking with children, you can focus on two main areas of outdoor education: nature exploration and Leave No Trace principles.

Nature Exploration

Encouraging your children to explore nature can foster their sense of curiosity. Kids can enjoy transforming a hike into an outdoor classroom to learn about the natural world around them.

Examining flora and fauna can help your child appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors. You can do activities like a scavenger hunt, identify plants, play games, and observe animals in their natural habitats. Don't forget to carry a magnifying glass to help them take a closer look at the smaller wonders they discover.

Allow the kids to pick out interesting features and ask questions. Teaching them about different animals, plants, and ecosystems can help keep the hiking experience engaging and enjoyable.

Leave No Trace Principles

Hiking with kids provides a great opportunity to teach them about the importance of preserving nature. Introducing young kids to the not leave any trace principle can help instill a strong sense of responsibility towards the environment.

The seven principles are:

  1. Planning and preparing with kids interested in adventures.
  2. Traveling and camping
  3. Properly disposing of waste
  4. Not taking anything away
  5. Having a small campfire
  6. Respecting nature
  7. Considering other hikers

Unexpected Situations

When hiking with kids, it's crucial to be prepared for unexpected situations and be ready to adapt your plans accordingly. Staying informed, alert, and flexible will ensure enjoyable outings everyone can enjoy.

Dealing with Animal Encounters

When hiking with kids, it is essential to be prepared for animal encounters. Children are often curious and may unintentionally approach wild animals, which could lead to potentially dangerous situations.

To ensure everyone's safety, teach your young kids the importance of keeping a respectful distance from animals and making noise to discourage unwanted visitors. Equipping your child with a safety whistle can be a useful tool in alerting others to potential dangers.

Also, educate your children about how to react if they encounter different animal types. For example, they should calmly back away and inform an adult if they encounter a snake. Knowing how to respond in various situations can make all the difference in maintaining safety during family hikes.

When to Turn Around

It can be difficult to determine when to turn around and head back on the trail, especially when the whole family has so much fun while exploring the great outdoors. However, knowing your limits and recognizing when it's time to call it a day is crucial.

One of the important factors to consider is the hiking trail's difficulty and the elevation gain it requires. Remember that kids may tire more easily than adults, so it's better to be cautious when choosing hiking trail distances. Track your progress carefully and watch for any mile marker to gauge how far you've traveled and if it's time to return.

Keep a close eye on your children's energy levels, as well. If they show signs of fatigue or discomfort, it's best to head back and not push them further. It's always better to leave them wanting to return for another adventure than risking injury or exhaustion.

Key Takeaways

  • Hiking with small children can foster a love for nature and physical activity.
  • Start with age-appropriate hiking trails and gradually introduce outdoor education.
  • Prioritize safety measures and suitable equipment for unexpected situations.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

Read More About Peter Brooks