Tips for Hiking with Kids

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A little preparation and a lot of flexibility can make it a memorable experience for children.

Before you go

  • Plan your hike ahead of time so you know what to expect with terrain, weather and distance. Include the children in the planning. Be realistic and know your limits.
  • Dress comfortably in weather-appropriate clothing, layering if necessary. Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes and socks. No sandals or open-toed shoes. A compact, portable plastic rain poncho can come in handy.
  • Take enough water (children should have their own bottles) and snacks. Nuts, granola bars and fruit are favorites. Stay well hydrated.
  • Pack a small first-aid kit. Include band aids and antibacterial ointment.
  • Let someone know exactly where you’re going and about when you expect to be back.

Once you get there

  • Explain the importance of sticking by parents or another adult. Keep to the pathways and discourage off-trail exploration.
  • Where possible, identify and warn about potentially dangerous plants, such as sumac, poison ivy or poison oak.
  • Remind children not to touch snakes or spiders, and not to touch or feed wild animals. Warn them not to drink water out of a river or stream.
  • Provide each child with a whistle. Teach them that if they ever get lost, they should stop, use their whistle and stay where they are until help arrives.

When the day is done

  • If you suspect exposure to poison oak or ivy, wash the skin with dish soap to remove oils. Wash exposed clothing right away.
  • Before hitting the shower, inspect for bug bites and ticks, including the scalp area.
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