Colorado is home to so many beautiful hikes and trials and Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of them! Hiking is a fun physical activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family, but there are certain precautions and tips that should be followed when hiking with children. Not only to keep everyone safe, but also to make it an enjoyable experience for the kids (and parents!) Here are some great tips to follow below to make your hiking experience the best it can be!
Keep it technology free! Today it’s necessary to unplug before tuning into the natural world. Leave electronic gizmos behind. Consider your cell phone for emergency use only.
Pack day packs with bright colored clothing for warmth and rain. A boy in an orange ball cap straying off-trail is easier to spot than a brunette in blue jeans wandering into the forest’s shadows. Give each hiker a whistle with instructions to keep in their pocket and use only when lost. Stash the trail map, first aid supplies, and a surprise snack in your pack along with along with an “emergency only” cell phone (turned off) or GPS device.
Tell someone else where your group is going, expected return time and stick to the plans.
Invite your child’s buddy along, you’ll hear more laughs and fewer whines. The duo will keep one another entertained while hiking and the competition factor will make neither one of them want to look slow!
Arrive at the trail head early in the day. If you don’t, afternoon rainstorms may cancel the opportunity to see wildlife or play creek crossing games. Have all hikers use the nearest toilet, then check that each one has their own water bottle and day pack. In order to keep tabs on each hiker’s fluid intake you should discourage water bottle sharing.
Assign “TL” (trail leaders) (or “engine” and “caboose” for very young hikers), The status gives kids an energy boost and encourages them to pay close attention to the trail. If there is a lagging hiker, give them the opportunity to be trail leader, and it will keep the group moving at a steady pace.
Take interest in your child’s natural curiosity. When your son shows you a snail captured in his palm, enhance his discovery by asking him questions like, “How does it see?” “Can you find its mouth?” “Do you think it can hear us talk?”
Enrich your kids’ sensory awareness by encouraging them to sniff, listen, and feel along the trail. A mint plant, identified by its distinct smell, also gives kids a chance to feel its square stem between their fingers. Pause to listen for birds calling to each other. Marvel at the variety of colors in the field of wildflowers. Hug that mighty Ponderosa while inhaling its vanilla aroma. At creek crossings allow little hands to feel the rocks above and below the water. Explore why the two surfaces are different. Questions without answers develop your child’s inquiry skills.
Make rest stops frequent, short and standing. Your announcing, “Water and treats at the next switchback,” accelerates the climb. Breath-catching breaks should last thirty seconds to a minute and a half. Longer stops allow the cardiovascular system to slow down, making it harder to start again. Keep the crew standing, another energy-saving, motivation-preserving strategy. For truly tired hikers, turn around when continuing would do harm than good. Do so at a viewpoint or destination-like place, giving young hikers the sense of completing the hike.
Review with your crew after the hike. Wait till they’re well-fed and rested before finding out, “What did you like best about that hike? Should we go back in the fall, when the leaves are gold? Did we go fast (or far or long) enough? What treats did you like? Where do we want to explore next time.” Their answers are clues to having another fun outing with your kids.