Hiking is a great family activity. Even children as young as four or five can enjoy this natural sport. Before your trip, discuss hiking trail safety with your youngsters. Sometimes, their natural curiosity can lead to dangerous situations, so be sure your kids understand the rules. As a parent, you should also be aware of some basic preparation for your hiking trip:
- Purchase the right footwear and socks
- Each child should carry a small pack with a quart of water and a healthy snack
- Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas and carry extra with you
- Apply insect repellant to all exposed skin areas and carry extra with you
Watch for Blisters
Nothing spoils a nature hike like blisters. These occur from friction. Buy quality hiking shoes for each child in a half-size larger than usual. Wool-blend socks intended for hikers are the best. Allow the child to break the shoes in before the actual hike. Bring blister bandages and moleskin just in case. If a sore red spot or blister appears, cover it immediately with a thick bandage to relieve the friction. When you return home, if there are any signs of blister infection, call your pediatrician right away.
Hydration is Important
Hiking may cause a loss of water faster than usual. Make sure your child stays hydrated. Sunscreen is a must. There are two types, chemical and physical. Both are effective, but ask your pediatrician which type your child should use. Always bring a sweatshirt, extra dry socks for each child and a basic first aid kit.
More Safety Tips
Teach children to never hike alone. They should always have a buddy with them. For extra safety, you can buy a small GPS device that securely clips onto your child’s clothing. Issue a loud, shrill whistle to each child to use in an emergency.
Tell your children never to play hide and seek on hiking trails or campgrounds and to stay on the marked trail. Remind them to never reach into bushes, under rocks or anywhere they can’t see. Explain that insects, lizards and other wildlife can bite or sting and are strictly for observation. Make sure they can recognize poison oak and ivy and that they know to stay clear of it.
Dress your kids in bright, neon colors, always keep them in sight and train them to wait at trail forks. The bright colors are for safety reasons, so you can spot your children, if they get a little too far away. Be aware that bright colors will attract more insects and bees, though. Waterfalls are beautiful but can be dangerous and are not for climbing around. If kids are separated from the group, tell them to blow their whistles and stay put until they are found.
Children will thrill at nature’s beauty and the chance to enjoy it. With a few simple precautions, hiking can be a fun and safe activity for the whole family to enjoy together.