Hiking With Kids
Given the choice, I gravitate towards the beach over the woods, but I have developed immense appreciation for the woods given Jon’s love of hiking and camping. (I even have gone so far as to say that I need basic life skills and want to learn how to fish!) And one of the great things about living in the Boston area is that there are plenty of hiking options in easy striking distance. Over Father’s Day weekend, we headed out for our first family hike of the season, and it reminded me that I had some tips I wanted to share for hiking with kids. It’s seriously the best. Even if you’re an ocean girl like me, give the woods a chance!
1. Let your kids lead
For Father’s Day, Laurel sweetly gifted Jon with a new hiking route! I was so impressed; she researched routes and printed and highlighted the trail map. And Laurel knows how much I love water and chose a route that led to a beautiful water view. It was a great example of how fun it is to let your kids lead! We also facilitated Violet’s desire to lead by having her lead our pack and look for trail blazes.
2. Make sure your route is suitable for the whole family
Laurel is 13 and has enough hiking experience to know to look at trail difficulty, but if you’re newer to hiking, definitely check the trail map to make sure you’re picking a route that your smallest family member can handle.
3. Dress accordingly
Oh man do Laurel and I suffer at the hands of mosquitoes (Laurel even more so than me). The day of our recent hike it was very hot out so we all wore shorts, but we brought long, light layers with us in case it was super buggy (and if we were planning on a longer hike, we would for sure start with long, light layers and long socks). You can tuck your pants into your socks as extra defense against ticks and mosquitoes and if you really want to step it up a level, buy EPA-approved permethrin-treated clothing or treat your clothes at home, according to label directions (it’s odorless after drying and won’t stain!). Permethrin is an EPA-approved and CDC-recommended repellent proven to fend off ticks and other pests.
4. Protect your skin
It might be tempting to skip sunscreen in the woods given the tree cover, but definitely protect your skin! Apply that sunscreen, and reapply as necessary depending on how long you’re out. Because I tan and freckle easily on my face (and am also admittedly in wrinkle-prevention mode) I also usually wear giant sunglasses and a baseball cap. Also, once your sunscreen is on, apply an EPA-approved bug repellent on top. Check out these CDC guidelines on insect repellents.
5. Be prepared
What you bring will depend on the weather and how long you plan on staying out, but at a bare minimum, bring a backpack (having hands free to scrabble around on rocks or hold small hands = good) and make sure you have a first aid kit, trail map, compass, water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. Jon also never goes anywhere without a flashlight and pocket knife. If you’re going for a longer hike, you might want to bring an emergency roll of toilet paper and a travel pack of wipes.
6. Bring water (even if you think you don’t need it!)
I mentioned water in the previous point but want to mention it again because it is important! Even if you are going on a short hike, water is important. Stay hydrated!
7. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach your kids life skills
Given how digital life is, one of my favorite things about being in the woods (even near the city) or driving around rural areas is using paper maps. When we hike with Laurel and Violet, we stop at trail intersections to refer to the trail map with them so they can learn a little about orienteering. We have them look for trail blazes. We talk about the importance of respecting the woods and leaving it exactly as we found it.
8. Check for ticks during and after
Because of the reports about ticks and Lyme disease over the last couple of seasons + the fact that we had to wade through long grass at one point during our hike (normally we stay centered on the paths to avoid ticks) + the fact that we actually found a tick on Violet last year, we checked for ticks during our hike and also after we got out of the woods. If you need help with tick information, here’s what a tick looks like and here’s where to check for ticks on people and pets.
Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment). All thoughts and opinions about hiking with kids (and why you totally should do it!) are, of course, my own.