Hiking with a child, or in our case with three of them and a dog for an addition 😉 , is my favorite outdoor activity with my family. These outings are usually longer, so I take them as an opportunity to spend more quality time with my family, me and my husband are more relaxed, because no major obligation is hanging over our heads in that moment, and children are just happy observing little and BIG attractions the nature has to offer every step of the way, and the communication between us is not interrupted by nuisances of modern society. And I didn’t even touch the overall health and well-being benefits of spending an active time in nature!
Hiking b.c. (before Children)
Yes, it was different before we started our family. On our free days we took off and went rock climbing or mountaineering and we didn’t consider the time too much. Till the weather was good and the night didn’t close down, we were just happy outside. And sometimes even if it was pouring rain or we had to descend at the light of full moon rising – this was our choice and our way of living.
Hiking a.c. (after Children)
Now … when our first daughter was born we had to make some adjustments to our life. The long hikes were over for some time, since we always tended to take our baby with us. We are just not of those parents who frequently leave their children with a sitter or grandparents and feel lighthearted about it. Sometimes yes, but not often.
As a mountaineering guide and whole life mountain enthusiast I was familiar with specific requirements hiking with children will bring to us. In this article I wanted to point out one of several aspects of hiking with a child – the time.
Duration of a Hike considering your Child’s Age
|Age||Duration||Movement Type||Outing Type|
|2 m to 2 y||max. 2 h on fresh air, when the child starts to walk 30 min to 1 h of walking||stroller, carrying, walking||walks, occasionally very short hikes|
|2 to 3 y||max. 3 h on fresh air, max. 30 min of constant walking||carrying, walking||walks, short hikes|
|3 to 4 y||max. 4 h on fresh air, max. 2 h of walking||walking with rests, carrying if needed||walks, short hikes|
|4 to 5 y||3 to 4 h of walking||walking with rests||walks, short hikes, occasionally half-day hikes|
|5 to 7 y||up to 4 h of walking||walking with rests, very easy climbing routes with additional protection||walks, short hikes, half-day hikes, occasionally whole-day hikes or more-days hike done in shorter portions|
This table shows only guidelines, but I cannot stress too much, that you alone have the responsibility to take into the account your child’s well-being. It is crucial that you consider your child’s abilities and adjust your outings to him/her. Children are so very different from one another. The magic will happen when we all listen to and really hear each other and all of our needs. Or so it works in our family …
Only this way your child will develop/maintain positive attitude towards outdoors and nature. Forcing never works the positive way.
And sometimes it is better to take a rest after first 100 meters, let them eat their snack and the world will be brighter for them – and you. You can leave this kind of little victory to them, because otherwise your whole day may be ruined by whining and crying about shoes, pants, shirts, hair, heat, flies, boredom, eating, not eating, cold, sweaters, caps, drinks, no drinks, mosquitoes and other convenient problems … It’s your call – I just usually pick the lesser evil 😉 .
Some Quick Tips for Safe Hiking with Children
- Plan the hike yourself (suggestions from children can be taken into account but thought over by an adult!
- Consider yours and your children’s abilities realistically!
- Prepare in advance (drink, food, clothes, footwear, gear …)!
- Do not hurry or force children!
- The goal is to have fun walking in nature not to reach the mountain top by every means!
- Take rests!
- Let them (and yourself) enjoy the way!
How do I do It?
I must admit, we brake the above rules about duration of being on fresh air with children constantly. We just love being outside!
And when I first saw those recommendations I thought: What about camping? When you are camping, you are constantly on fresh air and it even improves your health in my opinion. So … to be short: I know my children, I know they love the nature. So I let them be outside on fresh air as long as they desire if possible. But I know also, that sometimes they have enough and just want to play indoors. I gladly let them to do that, because I’m confident that next day they will be out again, in sun or rain, on grass or mud … 🙂
I think, that no matter where around the globe you live, the essence is the same: small children LOVE the OUTDOORS! 🙂 It is in their nature! And if we set a good example for them, they will be able to maintain their intuitive and inherent respect and love for nature and natural environment. And this is the base for their brighter future, don’t you think?
I would really like to hear about your experience with hiking with children, and if you have a question or two about this subject, please feel free to post it below!