Hiking with Kids

Take a hike and enjoy it!

Hiking is something you can do at any age and it's a great activity for children. Fall is also the perfect time to hike - no bugs, crisp fresh air, and spectacular fall foliage! But the idea of a long walk in the woods may not sound too appealing for most kids - especially those who much prefer spending their days cooped up with their electronics.

Here are a few tips that might make your next (or first) hiking trip more enjoyable for everyone in the family!

Set your hike goals based on the youngest child's ability. The last thing you want is to finish the hike carrying your child! Choose a location that's easy to get to, child-friendly and where you won't have to walk too far in.

The key to a great hike is to keep the emphasis on having a good time. It's not about getting to the finish line but more about what you see along the way. Play games that encourage them to observe everything around them. Classic games like "I Spy," "20 Questions," and the "Alphabet Game" will help idle away the hours on the trail.

Make it an educational outing by turning your hike into a treasure or scavenger hunt! Look for plants, flowers, insects, leaves, or wildlife is a good way to engage the youngest of hikers. Hiking along a river is a popular option, offering the chance to uncover frogs, dragonflies and wetland animals. Try bird watching or looking for animal tracks, rocks, or birds as you hike.

Research your hike trail ahead of time so you know what to expect and what will be fun to do. Build anticipation and enthusiasm about what's around the corner. A waterfall, river, or lake will provide plenty of excitement. Walking along a flat nature trail isn't all that stimulating, but kids do love climbing over boulders, walking through streams, and navigating hills. Make sure your trail is interesting!

When hiking with a group of children, assign a leader and let them take turns leading the group. Let the kids know that you're out to have fun, and the goal is to respect each other and be safe.

Don't push the kids too hard for too long. Make sure you take frequent breaks to eat and drink. Have lots of healthy treats and juice or water ready. Listen to your kids and be flexible.

Some safety considerations: when hiking with kids, make sure they are aware of the hazards around them. Remind them to stay in your sight at all times. Dress the kids in layers to make sure they are warm enough, but have the ability to peel clothes off if they get hot. Have sunscreen available - UV rays are harmful any time of the year! Warn them about poison ivy and poison oak, and advise them not to eat berries or plants.

So instil a love of the outdoors in your children. It's also a great way of spending real quality time away from phones, computers and television. You'll be amazed at how many things come up in conversation when you're alone together on the trails. And for those high-tech kids who can't get away from their electronics, consider turning your hike into geocaching… it will be a good compromise.

Where to hike in the Greater Toronto Area and Ontario?

Check out the Ontario Trails website that provides over 200 conservation areas that specialize in hiking trails - all of them just waiting to be explored.

Your Hiking Checklist!

Before heading out, don't forget your hiker's survival kit. Don't leave home without these items in your backpack. Remember to keep packs light on small shoulders.

__ Trail map
__ Compass
__ Water bottles
__ Sunscreen (rays are harmful all year long!)
__ Insect repellent (summer time)
__ Snacks
__ Rain poncho or large plastic bags
__ Pocket-knife
__ Loud whistle
__ Small medical kit (especially bandages for blisters)
__ Chemical light-stick 
__ Plastic container of matches and fire starter or lighter
__ Folding binoculars
__ Camera
__ Reflector tool (for signalling help)
__ Walkie-talkies or 2 way radios (in case there is no wifi service)
__ GPS
__ Extra wool socks (can double as gloves)
__ Kleenex
__ Extra fleece jacket and hat
__ Cell phone (you may be out of a service area but it's best to carry one, just in case!)

Happy Hiking!

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