There’s hiking and then there is hiking with BABES! You just need a little more time, a little more prep, the right stuff, patience, flexibility and a sense of wonder. We’ve provided some helpful tips and tricks as well as a handy dandy checklist to make your hikes with babes successful.
Consider staying close to home when beginning to hike as a family in case anyone gets sick, hurt or the horror…BORED. With more hiking experience you can branch out to farther destinations.
Determine the hike length based on the children’s ages. Start off with a shorter hike of 2-3 miles maximum especially when hiking with younger kiddos. Check out the route in advance and get a trail map before you go if possible. Local hiking groups like Hike It Baby chapters and park staff can you help you find age appropriate trails for your littles.
It’s a good idea to make sure there are bathrooms close by, preferably with changing tables at the trailhead or park.
Be sure to bring a cell phone with you and let folks know where you are hiking before you go especially if you are hiking solo with your babes.
If hiking with older kids, offer them the opportunity to help plan the hike and tell them the game plan in advance to give them ownership of the hike. Bring along nature “tools” like binoculars, magnifying glasses, nature journals and wildlife identification books to encourage exploration and observation. Make things extra fun with plant and animal scavenger hunts and 'I Spy' games. Choose a kid hike leader who rotates during the hike to keep everyone engaged and to allow the kiddos to develop a sense of leadership and community.
Assess the sleep situation. Does your babe sleep on the go or need to nap at home? Time your hike accordingly. My 1-year old babe is strictly a crib napper, so we plan our hikes during her wake times.
Make sure your little one is well fed before heading out on a hike and/or plan to feed on the go with nursing or snacks.
Check the weather before you go and dress appropriately. Bring the right gear for the forecast (i.e. rain gear, jacket, shorts, long sleeve shirt, hat, etc.). During the summer months, especially in warmer parts of the country, plan to hike in the morning or late afternoon/evening to avoid the heat and direct sunlight. The sun’s rays are generally strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Adults and babes should wear brightly colored clothes for easy spotting if anyone gets off the trail and out of sight. Make sure kids know their parent’s phone numbers, address and are able to describe what they look like and what they are wearing in case they get separated.
Hiking with “Freeloaders” is a fun family tradition. Being in the outdoors will help instill an affinity for the natural world, stimulate your child’s imagination and creativity, develop their leadership and cooperative skills and create lifelong memories for the whole family.
Before you get out with The Freeloader this August for Family Fun Month check out our Hiking with Babes Checklist. Happy hiking!
Hiking with Babes Checklist:
- Drinking water
- Kid/Family Friendly Insect Repellent
- Plastic baggies with the stuff you need
- Sturdy footwear good for hiking
- Extra change of clothes for water/dirt play or potty accidents
- Baby carrier of choice
- Fully stocked First Aid Kit
- Charged Cell Phone
- Inform family or friends of where you are hiking
- Trail Map
- Nature Tools