In northern Ontario, a great hike is never far away and hiking is a great family activity. My husband and I introduced our children to hiking before they could walk with the help of a baby jogger for smooth trails and a packsack-style baby carrier for uneven terrain. When they were toddlers, we brought them on short day hikes in the spirit of exploring new areas.
Now ages eight and six, our children are ready to tackle more challenging, longer hikes. As natural climbers, rocks that are awkward for adults are fun scrambles for children, and they can have impressive endurance. Children love the feeling of discovery and, with the right planning and mindset, hiking is a great way to nourish their enthusiasm for the natural word.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:
- Know your child’s abilities and limitations—plan hikes of a reasonable distance and difficulty.
- Explain the length of the hike in terms of time—encourage kids to pace themselves.
- Choose sturdy shoes with non-slip soles (don’t skimp because their feet grow quickly, good trail shoes or hiking boots are worth it!).
- If you are on a familiar trail, let your child lead—she will appreciate the scenery much more if it’s not blocked by an adult.
- Pack plenty of snacks and drinks and keep them readily accessible in your pack. Better yet, let your child pack and carry their own bag.
- If your child has a camera or binoculars, bring them along to investigate their new discoveries.
Ontario has a plethora of hiking trails, engage your children in selecting a location for your next family hike.