Hiking with kids can be fun, rewarding and one of the best bonding activities between a parent and child.
I love hiking and over the past few years I have had my son, grandson and friends children, join me on a hike. My son is not always keen when I ask him to join me but I can’t remember him ever coming home and saying that he really did not enjoy it. So if you want to start hiking with your kids, I suggest you start them at a reasonably early age.
Here are a few tips when hiking with kids:
1. Start off “slow”
Find a hike that is easy to start off with. Do a few easy hikes and as he / she gets fitter you can do slightly longer and longer hikes and later even do overnight hikes. Try picking a hiking trail that has some features like dams, rives, waterfall, rock formations, interesting foliage or something that will keep their wavering attention occupied. If your child wants to get down on his hands and knees to explore or stops to examine something, then let them… this is how they culture their own curiosity and experience learning independently.
2. Make it fun!
The key to hiking with kids is to keep them motivated and to have lots of fun. Have them look for heart shapes, certain flowers, insects, birds, mushrooms, spider webs (this is such a great way for them to learn about what is poisonous, edible and dangerous..) Play games by tossing leaves or sticks into a river or stream and see whose floats the fastest. There is so much to do and see to keep them busy and they’ll be learning at the same time.
3. Get them their own gear
Make sure they have good hiking shoes and comfortable clothes. It really isn’t necessary to buy them the most expensive hiking gear right from the start, but if you can see they are really into it and you have the finance, get them some good hiking boots, a backpack and a good all-weather jacket.
If you are planning to hike all year (and you should), then a rain coat is always advisable to pack. You can always start off with cheap disposable poncho. Take a spair set of dry clothes as there is nothing like a cold, wet and miserable child on a hike.
When you go on a hike with swimming spots, even if your child says he won’t swim, pack that costume and a wrap or towel because when he sees how much fun you are having he may just join you. 😊
Backpacks for kids must fit comfortably, so ask your outdoor supplier for assistance.
Let them carry their own backpack. Even if it only has a bottle of water, fruit and a small treat in it.
Depending on their age, have a piece of paper (covered in plastic to keep it dry and safe) with your name and contact details and as an extra precaution add a close friend or family members contact details to the paper as well. Explain to them that if anything ever happened and they get split from the group, they can ask someone to phone you or the friend. Remember to do this in such a way that it will not scare them but make them feel more secure.
I always thought only boys eat a lot when out hiking but to my surprise I found the girls eat just as much!
This is a bit of a hard subject because we all have different things we allow our kids to eat due to religion, diet or health issues.
My son loves egg or tuna sandwiches. I always take fruit but most of the time I tend to eat it. If you child doesn’t like bread then boiled eggs and cheese squares are good. My grandson for instance, loves cucumber sticks.
In the past I have also packed things like cold meat with a cheese stick and pickle inside it; cocktail meatballs; drumsticks; fruit salad; mini burgers; sausages…
And what child doesn’t like a treat? If it is just a short hike and they did have a nice healthy breakfast, then muffins, scones, flapjacks or even cupcakes are a huge favourite.
As for trail mix – I make my own mix with nuts, liquorish pieces, jelly babies, raisons, cranberries, dry banana, dates (chewy, hard ones), pineapple pieces etc. You can make a mix of your own in a large airtight bag and re-pack it into smaller bags before hikes. Biltong and Droëwors (dried meat & sausage) is always a nice snack as well. After you have done eating, make sure that all of your trash is collected and put into a bag to come back down with you. Always bring your rubbish back with you – even your fruit peels and egg shells.
Make sure you take enough water as kids drink a lot. My son took a while before he believed the brown water from some of the streams was drinkable so I always carried a bit more in in the beginning, now he loves drinking from the streams and rivers.
I don’t like to give my kids “game” or electrolyte mixes, but that is a personal option.
Lastly – When hiking with children always encourage them by telling them how well they are doing, even if they are going very slowly. Progress is progress no matter how slow. Kids need to hear that they are doing an awesome job, especially if it’s their first time out on the trail
Remember, it’s about the journey not the destination!
- Lions Head,
- Table Mountain Pipe Track,
- Palmiet River
- Harold Porter
- Boomslang Cave
- Table Mountain Contour path
- Cecilia Forest
- Silvermine Waterfall
- Newlands forest