Parenting: Hiking with Preschoolers
July 11, 2011 (WPVI) -- Last month, while vacationing in the Poconos, my husband and I decided to go for our first real family hike.
Sure, we've hiked before, when Luke was a baby who could fit in our back baby carrier and nap while we exercised through the woods. But, this was the first time we ventured out with Luke and Emma hiking besides us. We went to Hawk Falls at Hickory Run State Park, had a great time and learned a bit in the process.
First of all, hike short trails. You may be geared up to hike ten miles, but preschoolers have much shorter legs. That means they have to work twice has hard as adults to keep up. Pick a trail that isn't too strenuous, without steep hills, cliffs, sharp drop offs or very rocky terrain. Make sure you have a reliable trail map so you won't get lost and a cell phone. And allow plenty of time so you can hike at a leisurely pace with lots of stops and opportunities to explore.
Make sure your children have appropriate footwear. While they may not own a pair of hiking boots, a good pair of sturdy sneakers with a flexible sole works well. Don't let your kids hike in flip-flops, sandals or any open-toed or open-backed shoes. If they wear their "beach shoes," there is a good chance you'll end up carrying your children most of the way.
Bring more drinks and snacks than you expect you'll need. Even when the weather isn't very hot, you can get warm and dehydrated during your hike. We had a backpack full of Gatorade and a big bag of popcorn. We had a nice snack in front the waterfall that fueled us up nicely for our return hike to the car.
We ended up covering 3.5 miles, round trip. We sang songs, spotted flowers and mushrooms, and came back with loads of photos and even more happy memories.
Happy parenting! Cecily
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