27 Essential Tips for Hiking with Kids: Safety, Fun, and Exploration

Hiking with kids requires careful planning and consideration, especially regarding safety and ensuring an enjoyable experience. In this blog post, we’ll share 27 essential tips for hiking with kids, prioritizing safety and fun to help make your outdoor adventures memorable and enjoyable for the whole family.

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Epingle des conseils pour la randonnée avec des enfants

Safety Tips for Hiking with Kids

Choose Kid-Friendly Trails

Opt for trails suitable for children, with manageable distances and terrain matching your kids’ abilities. Ensuring the trail is right empowers children, fostering a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their ability to complete the journey.

child on a trail in forest

Start Small

Begin with short hikes and gradually increase the difficulty as your kids gain more experience and confidence on the trails. Start with a 10-minute hike and add a few minutes each time. Gradually increasing the distance and duration of hikes will help build your child’s endurance and resilience on the trails.

Set Realistic Expectations

Be mindful of your kids’ physical abilities and attention spans, and adjust your pace and expectations accordingly.

Plan Ahead

Research the trail beforehand, including its difficulty level, amenities, and potential hazards. Plan your route and inform someone of your hiking plans.

Pack Essentials

Bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and other essentials to keep your kids comfortable and safe throughout the hike.

Stay Hydrated and Snack Often

Encourage your kids to drink water regularly and take breaks for snacks to keep their energy levels up. These breaks will also help your child recover and help them cover more distance.

Dress Appropriately

Dress your kids in layers appropriate for the weather and wear sturdy, comfortable footwear with good traction. Ensure their feet are dry and blister-free with a good pair of socks. 

child hiking with a dog on a trail in forest in the fall
Credit: Kym Provost

Let Them Have Their Own Gear

Allow your kids to have their age-appropriate hiking gear, such as a small backpack, water bottle, whistle, and possibly a lightweight flashlight. Having their own gear empowers children and instills a sense of responsibility for their belongings.

Safety First

Prioritize safety at all times, including staying together as a group, watching for hazards like steep drops or slippery surfaces, and being mindful of changing weather conditions.

Practice Trail Safety Games

Engage your kids in safety-focused games and activities, such as “Stop, Look, and Listen,” at trail intersections or practicing emergency procedures like what to do if they get separated from the group.

Teach Basic Wilderness First Aid

Equip your kids with basic first aid knowledge, such as how to treat minor cuts, scrapes, and insect bites. Consider enrolling in a family-friendly wilderness first aid course together.

Bring Navigation Tools

Carry a map, compass, or GPS device and teach your kids how to use them to navigate the trail. This includes using a compass, reading maps, and understanding topographics. Empower your children by entrusting them with navigation under your careful supervision to nurture their confidence and sense of capability on the trails.

Learning and Skill-Building Tips for Hiking with Kids

Encourage Trail Leadership

Rotate leadership roles among your kids, allowing them to take turns leading the group (under adult supervision). This fosters a sense of independence and confidence while teaching valuable leadership and decision-making skills.

Educate About Wildlife

Teach your kids about the wildlife they might encounter on the trail and how to react safely, such as giving animals space and avoiding sudden movements, fostering a sense of respect for the animals in the wild.

Encourage Exploration

Allow your kids to explore their surroundings and investigate interesting plants and rocks. Encourage curiosity and exploration of the natural world around them. 

kid by a river

Embrace Nature’s Teachings

Use the hike to teach your kids about the natural world, from identifying plants and animals to different types of trees, birds, or rocks along the trail. With Google Lens or Visual-Lookup, kids can easily learn about plants and trees around them.

Practice Mindfulness and Nature Appreciation

Take moments during the hike to pause, breathe, and appreciate the natural world’s beauty. Encourage your kids to use their senses to fully experience and connect with nature.

Teach Trail Etiquette

Teach your kids to stay on the trail, respect wildlife, and leave no trace. Their love of nature should be accompanied by great appreciation and respect.

a man and a child walking on a trail in forest
credit: Caroline Lafleur

Leave No Trace Principles

Educate kids about Leave No Trace principles, emphasizing the importance of minimizing human environmental impact, practicing proper waste disposal, and respecting wildlife habitats during outdoor adventures.

Teach Trail Skills

Use hiking to teach your kids valuable outdoor skills, such as map reading, navigation, identifying edible plants, basic knot-tying techniques, finding and purifying water, and signalling for help in emergencies.

Fun and Engaging Tips for Hiking with Kids

Make it a Game

Turn the hike into a fun adventure by playing games like “I Spy” or “Nature Bingo” to keep your kids entertained and engaged.

kid hopping on boulders playing on a trail in the forest during fall
credit: Kym Provost

Capture Memories

Bring a camera or smartphone to capture special moments and create lasting memories of your hiking adventures together. 

Hike with Friends

Consider hiking with other families or friends who have children. This adds to the fun and camaraderie and provides additional support and safety on the trail.

kids hiking down steps in a forest
credit: Caroline Lafleur

Celebrate Milestones

Celebrate milestones and achievements along the trail, whether reaching a scenic viewpoint, spotting wildlife, or completing a challenging section of the hike. Develop a sense of accomplishment and pride in your kids while in the outdoors. 

Lead by Example

Be a positive role model for your kids by demonstrating good hiking practices, respecting nature, and showing enthusiasm for outdoor exploration.

Reflect and Appreciate

Take time to reflect on the beauty and wonder of nature with your kids, appreciating the simple joys of being outdoors together.

Create a Hiking Journal or Log

Encourage your kids to keep a hiking journal or log where they can document their outdoor adventures, including trail names, distances, wildlife sightings, and memorable moments. This helps foster a connection to nature and preserves memories for years.

Final Thoughts on Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids is an opportunity to create cherished memories, foster a love for the outdoors, and instill important values of stewardship and respect for nature. By prioritizing safety, fun, and educational experiences, you can make hiking with your kids a rewarding adventure they’ll remember for years. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and embark on a journey of discovery and adventure with your little explorers!

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