by Tom Rankin, Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post
You’ve probably seen TV ads aimed at getting children to exercise. This is a great idea, and what could be better than taking your children hiking? They get fresh air, interaction with nature and can start a lifelong hobby of being outdoors.
I have friends who have taken their children hiking as newborns. Some mothers carry their babies in a sling, while others place them in a specially designed baby carrier, which can double as a backpack.
One important aspect to keep in mind is that children are much more focused on the journey than the destination. Be prepared to not make it all the way to the goal. Parents can tell when their children are tired, instead of just grumbling about moving up the trail, and you should never push children beyond their limits.
Frequent rest breaks and time to explore the sides of the trail will help keep them interested.
Small enticements along the way, such as “there is a special treat waiting at the summit,” might work with some kids, but let them dictate the pace and when to stop. The last thing you want is for the hike to turn into a negative experience.
You can help avoid problems by making sure your child is adequately clothed in layers appropriate to the conditions, and has sturdy, well-fitting boots. You can buy them backpacks, (or they could probably use their school packs), but don’t expect them to carry all their gear, food and water. Explain to them that as they grow older and stronger, they can carry more of their own gear. A small toy could be brought along in the pack.
My wife’s grandson, 6, is a typical, active boy, who hikes with us frequently. But he sometimes takes risks on the trail that we would rather he not do. Let children have fun — and even take a few small risks — but make sure you keep a close eye on them and do not allow them to get into dangerous situations. Explain that the outdoors can be fun, but they could get hurt, or lost. Teach your children to understand trail markers and stay on the trail. Carrying a first-aid kit is a must.
The Catskill 3500 Club leads hikes to each of the 35 peaks over 3,500 feet in the Catskills in every season. We have a requirement that you do at least four winter climbs before you join the club. Our hikes are free, but you must sign up in advance. We will make sure you are ready to go on the hike you sign up for with a few questions about what you have hiked recently and if you have the appropriate gear. This helps keep every hike a safe hike for everyone involved.
Children are welcome on our hikes, but you should discuss your child’s age and ability with the leader before the hike. A parent or guardian must accompany all minors and sign a waiver for them.
Tom Rankin is an avid hiker and vice president of the Catskill 3500 Club. He also helps keep the Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower open to visitors. He can be contacted through the Catskill 3500 Club Web page: www.catskill-3500-club.org/about/officers.htm. “Valley Explorer” is a regular feature in My Valley.