Family Friendly Hiking Tips

Having kids is no reason to stop hiking. If you’d love to pass along your love of the outdoors (or foster a new family tradition) here are 5 quick tips to get you going.

  • Adjust your expectations – You might not finish the whole hike the first time and that’s ok. Typically a child can walk 1km for every year of their age but don’t expect a 5 year old who has never been on a hike to meet that expectation rather make it a long term goal for the season.
  • Stop LOTS – I remember a friend telling me once “I like hiking with you because you take lots of breaks for snacks.” It’s ok to stop for a bite to eat and smell the roses when you are hiking, in fact it’s encouraged! Hiking with your kids is about the journey NOT the destination.
  • Know where you are headed – Even kids are goal oriented. If there is a waterfall at the end of the trail that makes for excellent motivation to keep going. Maybe there is a huge boulder or other landmark that can give them bearing for “how much farther?”
  • Let your child bring a friend – The power of social influence and conformity should never be underestimated.
  • Be a good role model – As you are hiking talk about what you see. Ask questions for your child to ponder. Look for signs of wildlife, unique and familiar foliage.

If the hike/walk is going well, consider heading home a little early. Better to end early on a positive note then push on in the face of waning enthusiasm.

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Enjoying your time on the trail calls for the Boy Scout model of “Be Prepared”. A water bottle, small first aid kit and a change of clothes might be all you need for a short hike but here are a few other things you might want to consider bringing along:

  • Healthy snacks
  • A wide brimmed sun hat
  • An extra fleece jacket or pullover.
  • A small bag for garbage
  • A small disposable camera – let them take their own pictures!
  • A change of clothes can’t hurt, but a pair of dry socks is a must.

Keep in mind that children get cold easier than adults. Hats and dry socks are a must in keeping kids warm and comfortable. I can’t stress enough how helpful having a change of clothes is to your success.

Let your child carry a pack. It gives them a sense of purpose and engages them in the entire event. My son has carried his own water in a kids sized camelback since he was 3 years old. If you ensure the pack fits the child well and is light enough they are unlikely to complain at all.

Staying Safe on the Trail

Here are some tips from Mountain Equipment Co-op on staying safe.

  • Check your first aid kit before each trip.
    Replace missing items, like adhesive bandages and tweezers.
  • Don’t let kids wear open-toed shoes.
    They don’t need fancy hiking boots – simple running shoes will do the trick.
  • Children get cold faster than adults.
    Dress them in several layers, which can be peeled off as they get warm, and added as they get cool.
  • Keep young kids in sight at all times.
    Older children should be encouraged to stay in sight, or at least within earshot.
  • Teach children to stay where they are if they think they’re lost.
    Teach them to “hug a tree” and stay put. Teaming up kids with a buddy may also prevent a solo straggler from drifting off the trail.
  • Each child should carry a whistle to signal for help.
    A whistle is louder then yelling and much easier to sustain. Before you head out, agree on a signal – three blows is a standard distress signal that indicates “I’m lost” or “I need help.”

A Fox-40 whistle is the best and loudest whistle you can buy. We all have one on our packs for emergencies.


Krystal Williams-Gardener founder of is a mom to three children under 10 in Kamloops BC. She is passionate about fostering her children’s connection to nature. She is also the owner of Kamloops first Waldorf inspired preschool for children aged 3-6 years. To learn more visit