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Take A Hike! (With Your Kids)

Summer vacation season is upon us.  For many kids that will mean becoming latchkey kids and spending hours on the couch playing video games. Such is the curse of their generation.

Going outside? Boring. Hiking? That’s just a really long walk.

If you want your kids to enjoy hiking and the great outdoors, you need to “make it fun,” says Jeff Alt, renowned hiking expert and author of the new book Get Your Kids Hiking! How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun.

Jeff is an avid hiker. In addition to walking the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, he also walked the 218-mile John Muir Trail with his wife, and trekked across a 50-mile path of Ireland with his wife, young daughter, and extended family. He and his wife emerged from the church doors on their wedding day wearing backpacks, and his son was taken on his first hike at 8 weeks.

That’s a serious love of hiking and he’s eager to share it with other families.

Jeff has lots of great advice about how to make sure you and the kids have a great time outdoors. “It’s time to get off the couch and hit the trail with your kids.”

  • How to Love Hiking 1 of 14
    how to get your kids to love hiking

    It's not as hard as you think, to get your kids loving outdoor adventures with nature.

  • Start ‘Em Young 2 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Ergonomically designed baby carriers make it easy and fun to carry your infant and toddler with you wherever you hike. Walk to your Favorite Park or beach. Bring a friend. Stop often and let your little one explore. Make your hike a routine your kids will look forward to.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Let The Kids Lead 3 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Hike at your child's pace and distance. Whatever your child takes interest in, stop and explore that bug, leaf or rock with them. Tell them about the animals, rocks, trees, and flowers. Getting to the destination is less important than making sure your kids have so much fun; they will want to go again and again.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Count Down To Adventure 4 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Psych the kids up with pictures, videos, and highlights of the places they will go and the things they will see. Use books, magazines, maps, and the Internet, especially park websites and videos showing the spectacular wildlife and locations they will see.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Take Advantage of Park Guides 5 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Utilize and enjoy the amazing services and resources offered by our parks, trail and recreational system and associations. This will help ensure that the experience is enjoyable, memorable and even life-changing.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Play Games 6 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Play I Spy using your surroundings as you walk along. Create your own scavenger hunt in search of animals, plants and views along the way. Make up rhymes and sing songs as you walk. Pack along a plant and animal identification guide for your older child. 

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Bring A Friend 7 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Let your social butterfly bring a friend, it's much easier when they have someone their own age to go on adventures with, and while you may feel like you're shepherding a small herd, it's actually easier.  Bonus: Grandparents count as friends too!

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Footwear 8 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Until your kids are walking consistently on their own (birth-3), fit them with a comfortable pair of water resistant shoes. Make sure the three and older kids are wearing light weight trail shoes or boots with a sturdy sole. A Vibram sole with a waterproof breathable liner is preferred. Wear non-cotton, moisture wicking, synthetic or wool socks. If it's winter, get snow shoes.

    Image via Buzz Bishop.

  • Clothing 9 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Dress for the weather! Wear non-cotton synthetic, wool & fleece clothes and dress in layers. Wear multipurpose clothes like pants that zip off into shorts or shirts with role up sleeves. Pack a waterproof breathable rain parka. Dress for the season with fleece hat & gloves or a hat with a wide brim for sun protection.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Packs 10 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Get age and size appropriate backpacks that fit each hiker comfortably with hydration hose capability.

    Let young children fill their adventure pack with a bug catcher, magnifying glass, binoculars, a camera, a map and compass, whistle, or flashlight. Let your little adventurer take ownership and pack a few items of his own; even if it's not hiking related.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Trekking Poles 11 of 14
    hiking with kids

    You can let the kids find walking sticks along the route, but the new design of trekking poles make them safe, sturdy, and adjustable walking aids for everyone in the family.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Communication 12 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Bring a smart phone so you can take lots of pictures and if there's connectivity, you can use the GPS signal to keep yoursel located on the trail and for geocaching.  Last summer I bought a set of short range walkie talkies so they can run ahead on the trail and pretend they are super spies and we can talk back to mission control.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Safety Kit 13 of 14
    hiking with kids

    Pediatrician recommended suntan lotion and bug repellent containing Deet or Picaridin; First aid kit that accommodates the whole group & first aid knowledge to go along with the kit.

    Bring a compass & map and brush up on how to use them. Learn how to make a shelter to keep you warm and dry. Keep matches and a lighter in a dry place and know how to make a fire to keep warm.

    Carry a whistle or bear bells and a signal mirror in case you get lost. Pack a survival knife with a locking blade. Bring a head lampflashlightextra batteries, 50 feet of rope or twine, and always have several feet of duct tape for that unexpected repair.

    Image via Buzz Bishop

  • Get Your Kids Hiking 14 of 14
    Take A Hike With Your Kids

    Jeff Alt is a travelling speaker and hiking expert who provides seminars in collaboration with the Shenandoah National Park staff, and Appalachian Trail Shows in and around National Parks. Alt has been hiking with his kids since they were infants. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). His hiking advice has been featured in numerous publications and media. Alt is a speech language pathologist and lives with his wife and two children in Cincinnati, Ohio.

    Get it at Amazon for $10.36

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