Fresh air, green leaves and singing birds can put anyone in the mood for a good hike. In addition to the aerobic exercise hiking provides, it's a great way to spend some quality time with family and friends. Given a tot's natural curiosity about their surroundings, kids make excellent hiking partners, if parents go into the activity realizing that they might not reach their end point, mileage or exercise goals during the outing.

Hiking with children involves frequent stops, sedate trails and some extra gear. Youngsters normally focus on the excitement of a new experience rather than the destination so finding a local trail or creek to walk along will suffice.

To capture their curiosity, be sure to bring along "tools" that will help your lil one gain the most from the experience. Butterfly nets, assorted plastic containers for storing pebbles and leaves, a canteen and a magnifying glass will add intrigue to the excursion. The outing should also provide many opportunities for capturing memories – either through the eye of a camera or a notebook where kids sketch their surroundings.

For more information on what parents should pack when hiking with their offspring, read more.

Packing for a hike with kids is no easy feat. Depending on the ages of the tots, diapers, snacks and changes of clothing should be packed – even for the shortest of outings. Safe Kids USA also recommends the following precautions.

  • Keep first aid supplies and emergency phone numbers handy, and know where the nearest phone is located. Cell phones might not work in remote areas. Let friends and relatives know where you’re going and when you’re coming home.
  • Dress children in layers of clothing to help prevent heat-related illness and hypothermia. A child’s body temperature changes faster than an adult’s.
  • Never let children hike alone.
  • Don’t push kids to go on a longer or more strenuous hike than they can handle. Exhausted children are more likely to fall, wander off or otherwise get injured. Bring plenty of drinking water or sports drinks and high-energy snacks.
  • Kids should wear hiking boots and clothing that offers protection from scrapes, bites and poisonous plants. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply insect repellent to a child’s clothing and exposed skin.
  • Apply sunscreen rated SPF 15 or higher to your child’s exposed skin 15 to 30 minutes before going out, and reapply frequently. (It is possible to get a sunburn in cloudy conditions.)

Most of all, it's important to remember that the hike is a journey. Getting out in the great outdoors with your wee ones is an ideal way to spend the day.
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