Hiking With Children
Many people ask about the advisability of hiking with their children. The normal question is "From what age would a child be able to hike?" or "Can my child carry a backpack?" or "Would my daughter be able to manage to cover the distances". This page is an effort to answer some of these questions.
From what age?
Generally speaking, we have found that children from the age of 5 years of age can walk the easier trails. They may need help and may moan but especially if there are other children of a similar age or slightly older, they will manage remarkably well. It is important for children to be introduced to hiking from an early age as part of a family group pastime as it is one of the few things that parents and children can do together.
Babies can be also carried using a baby carrier. See above picture. This is also called a papoose. This is ideal up to the age of two years and even a fairly fit woman can carry their child in this manner. It is important to protect the babies skin with sun block and a hat.
Backpacking can be done with babies but then someone else will need to carry some of your items, like sleeping bag and food. Children from 5 years should be able to carry their own sleeping bag and snacks in a day pack.
A child should not be made to carry a full backpack until late teens. Most backpack manufacturers make small backpacks of around 50 litres in size that are suitable for older children. These packs normally have smaller waist belts which can be adjusted to fit snugly around a child's waist.
It is important for children to have decent walking shoes for hiking, to support that child's foot. These need not cost a fortune and I have found that if a child has the right gear to hike with, it gives them the drive to further enjoy this sport.
Wild animals and reptiles
A question often asked is "How safe is it to take children out on hikes?" I believe that it is as safe as any recreation in nature. Children should however be kept under adult supervision at all times. Snakes and wild animals are a fact to be reckoned with but this should not deter the participation of children in this incredible pastime.
Further interesting information can be gained be visiting the UK site www.kidsexercise.co.uk
Footprint Hiking Club
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