Hiking with your kids is important because unstructured nature play can help with attention deficit hyper activity disorder, childhood obesity caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and depression. Specifically, nature exposure reduces stress and increases concentration, creativity, and self-esteem. It is recommended to reserve time on the trail for kid(s) to explore and play unstructured. Further, discussing shapes, colors, sounds, and smells with children engages them and helps them form a connection with nature. To make outdoor recreation fun and educational, we have designed and developed outdoor kids activities in the form of free PDFs. Richard Louv has coined the term "nature deficit disorder", which refers to the trend that children are spending less time outdoors than their parents and grandparents spent outdoors. He cites that only six percent of 9-13 year old kids play outside on their own during an average week, which is much less than previous generations. Check out his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder for more information about the importance of children spending time outdoors.
How to dress your child - Protecting your child from the sun while hiking is very important because baby and toddler skin is more sensitive to the sun than is adult skin. Baby sun tan lotion, roll on sticks, and lip balm are all viable options for protection. In addition, a baby sun hat and toddler sun glasses are recommended. Regarding clothes, it is advocated to dress your child with a lightweight long sleeve shirt, lightweight pants, and shoes that cover toes because covering a child's skin is the best way to protect her/him from both the sun and mosquito bites. Moreover, baby bug spray is important because kids are vulnerable to bites and the effects of West Nile Virus. The best way to prevent West Nile virus is to use a bug spray that contains an EPA-registered insect repellent.
What to pack for your kids - Preparing for a hike with your kids can be an overwhelming task. The first items to pack are water in a sippy cup that can withstand a fall of up to five feet, snacks such as cereal bars and crackers, and a healthy lunch (e.g., peanut butter and jelly). For the purpose of keeping your child comfortable and clean, it is recommended to bring diapers, wipes, a changing pad, hand sanitizer, disposable diaper bags, and baby/toddler ibuprofen. Moreover, it is eco-friendly to pack out dirty diapers keeping all contents in the diaper and by using a bag for storage and disposal. In addition, it can be necessary to pack an extra set of clothes and an extra layer including a rain jacket or wind breaker. Kids in a child carrier can be comforted by strapping their favorite blanket, doll, or stuffed animal to it. Finally, the CamelBak Kid's Skeeter 1-Liter Hydration Pack is a fun way for older children to carry their own water.
What adults should pack for themselves - Adults hiking with kids need to pack the same things for themselves as they pack for their children but with greater care because hiking with a child in a carrier can be exhausting. With the added weight of a child in a carrier, trekking poles can reduce pressure put on knees and, especially, while hiking down steep, rocky trails. Adults not carrying a child can carry a hydration pack for efficient storage of water, snacks, and other supplies. Taking pictures with a rugged digital camera is a fun way to remind your family how much fun they had on their hike. Finally, it is important to bring a trail map, compass or gps device, first aid kit, compact thermal blanket, and whistle anytime you are on rugged and/or remote trails.
How to carry a child - Babies up to 25 lbs can be carried in a chest carrier such as a BabyBjorn. Chest carriers allow babies to face in or out during a hike. Further, they help a baby stay warm by keeping them close to their parent's chest. Toddlers up to 50 lbs can be carried in a child carrier backpack such as the Kelty KIDS FC 3. Child carrier backpacks can offer additional benefits including a rain shield, kickstand for mounting and dismounting, adjustable straps, a hand mirror, and storage space for diapers, wipes, baby sunscreen, maps, and other items. Comfortable and durable shoes and socks are essential for parents hiking with kids in a carrier because of the additional weight and pressure a child adds to their feet. It is advocated to wear socks to the store and to try on several hiking shoes before choosing a pair. Features to look for in shoes include ankle support, toe protection, thick shock-absorbing soles, and good tread. Finally, an important thing to consider is the child's nap time and whether or not the he or she is likely to sleep while inside a carrier.