1. Choose hikes with a specific destination such as a lake, a spectacular view, or a waterfall. Start small children on short, easy trails at first; gradually increase difficulty as their muscles and ambition grow. 2. Keep hiking speed and distance within physical as well as fun limits. A good way to judge the pace of a child is to take turns letting them assume the lead. Maintain their pace when you are in the lead. 3. Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Stop frequently to observe nature and the little things that a child Replaces fascinating. They may even discover things you have missed before. 4. Make your child's feet a priority. Sturdy boots that fit properly will allow a child to focus on the fun and adventure of a hike. At the first sign of redness or blistering feet, apply moleskin. 5. Take only pictures; leave only footprints. Teach respect of the outdoors. Set an example by carrying out trash and following park or forest regulations. 6. Take food your child likes to eat and plenty of it. Familiar foods will be more appetizing to a child than traditional hiking fare and even the pickiest eaters seem to have a larger appetite in the outdoors. 7. Have each child carry a small backpack or fanny pack. The pack should contain water, a survival whistle, flashlight or light stick, a brightly colored poncho, emergency blanket, extra socks, extra food, and a small first aid kit. Depending on the age and ability of your child the items may vary. Teach your child how to use these items in case they are lost. 8. Take frequent rest breaks and drink plenty of water. When exercising, children lose water faster than adults and are not likely to notice the effects. 9. Pack extra clothing and be prepared for rain even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky. 10. Have fun! An enjoyable experience will increase the chances that your child will want to venture out again and again.
We started backpacking with out daughter when she was three years old. If your child has a snuggle bunny be sure it is also in her pack. As to how much to put in it, we started with her jacket, clothes, blanket and stuffed animal. (Her whistle was on a cord around her neck.) She would run ahead on the trail and come back; each time she came back we added something to her pack until she was carrying enough to slow her down a bit but not wear her out.