How to Plan Your Next Family Hike

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities for families. Why not hit the trails and spend quality time with your children? Not only will you get a workout, but you'll teach your children to enjoy and respect nature.

Plan ahead to have a successful hike with your family.

Remember, your kids have shorter legs, so the pace needs to slow down to their speed. Let them set the pace  and be prepared to carry them when they get tired.

Give your children their own little pack, it will make them feel special. Just make sure it's not too heavy.  Keep in mind, a mile hike might take an hour or two.

As parents, your job is to be sensitive and aware of their energy. Be ready to make alternate plans at any moments notice.

Make hiking goals reasonable. Start early in the day when everyone is well rested. Keep them fed and hydrated. Some children love to travel on foot; some will dawdle looking at rocks and flowers along the way. Others might set a faster pace than their older siblings, in order to not let them get ahead. Design your route to fit your family. It may be a multi-day loop hike that requires backpacking and a night or two.

Teach them good outdoor ethics and to respect nature. Stay on the trail and don't allow them to take shortcuts. No yelling or loud noises. Don't throw rocks or break tree branches. Don't pick flowers or write on rocks. No running on the trails. Respect other hiker's space. No littering. Remember-what pack in, you pack out.

Make sure they have the proper footwear. This is as important for them as it is for you. Nylon liner socks and a heavier sock are also a must to avoid getting blister.

Make the walk an adventure. Let children help decide hiking trail and destination goals. Lead the way in being excited about new discoveries around each bend.

Invent games to play. Make a list before hand of objects or animals to spot and challenge them to find everything on that list-winner gets a prize. 

Another idea, examine plant foliage and unusual insects (use that handy magnifying glass). This could be an outdoor lesson in nature as well as a wonderful family memory.

Praise your young hiker's efforts and have fun.

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Parenting & Education Examiner Rhonda Cratty enjoys writing about ways parents can improve the quality of their children's educational lives.

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