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7 tips for hiking with kids
Five of Adam and Arianne Brown's children walking along the ridge of a foothill they hiked to. - photo by Arianne Brown
With summer vacation in full swing for most children, many parents are left with six hours in each weekday to fill.

Sure, not every hour of the day needs to be planned out, but allowing summer vacation to be a free-for-all isnt the best idea, either. So, the hunt to find quality activities ensues, with many parents investing in swimming pool and amusement park passes and trips to the zoo and museums. These are all fantastic places, but a little hefty on the wallet.

What many parents tend to overlook are the very things that are overlooking them: the mountains.

Taking your kids hiking is not that difficult, and it is really quite enjoyable and rewarding.

Here are a handful of tips on how to successfully and enjoyably, take your kids hiking.

Scout it out

While doing an online search for hikes is great, you never really know what youre getting into until you actually hike it yourself first before taking your kids.

You may read that a particular hike is perfect for kids, only to get there to find yourself and your little ones forming a human chain to keep from slipping down the hillside. Likewise, you may pick an easy hike only to find that it isnt a hike at all, but rather a paved 400 meter path to an overlook.

By taking the time to scout out the hike, you will know exactly what you will be taking your children on.

Pack plenty of snacks and water

Assuming you have picked a hike that is longer than 400 meters, you will need to have food and drink, and not necessarily because your kids are dying of thirst and hunger, but because apparently, the mere thought of going on a hike makes their throats dry and their tummies growl.

By having their favorite snacks on hand (my kids like Goldfish crackers, PROBARS and fruit snacks), as well as plenty of water, you will pacify the complainers.

Furthermore, there are many great packs that can comfortably hold water and snacks, freeing up much needed hand space, for carrying the one(s) that need carrying.

Dont be afraid to bring the tiny ones

Hiking with babies is not all that difficult. There are plenty of hiking packs that fit securely on mom or dads back and will provide a comfortable place for your little one to be rocked soundly to sleep.

When they get a little bigger, but still not big enough to walk the entire way themselves, thats when you suck it up, and carry him or her in your arms, which were made just perfectly to do so.

You may need to take a few more breaks than usual, but as long as you keep smiling, so will your baby.

Get an early start

One of the biggest complaints heard from kids while hiking is the heat. And its true, the sun can zap energy quickly, especially out of children. By getting an early start, the hot, summer sun will not be as much an issue, and everyone will enjoy it more, even mom and dad.

Good shoes and socks are key

If you think that allowing your daughter to wear her Keds and ankle socks is going to cut it, think again. Not only will she be complaining, but you will follow suit, as you will be making many stops to dump rocks out, not to mention the blisters that are eminent.

Hiking boots are great, but good, sturdy shoes that are tied well and have high, above-the ankle socks, will do the trick just fine.

Take the focus off of the hike

While hiking is not boring, kids tend to get focused on the task, rather than the experience. Kids can make it through anything if they have fun things to do and look at.

Point out moss and other unusual plants. Have jackrabbit-sighting contests, play I spy and other games while you walk. By taking the focus off of the hiking part, and turning the spotlight on the experience, I guarantee the time will go by quickly and you will be sad when its over.

Teach them to be respectful

So much about being outdoors is teaching your children to respect the land around them. If and when you come across any natural treasures, be respectful and teach your children the "look, but don't touch" rule.

In addition, make sure that your children know not to leave any garbage on the ground. Better, yet, bring a sack along so that you can pick up trash left by others.

When you make it back home and look out your window, you can point at the beautiful mountains and show your children where you hiked. They will want to go back.
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