Get Your Kids Hiking! Start them Young and Keep it Fun
Want Your Kids to Enjoy Hiking and the Great Outdoors? “Make it fun”, says Jeff Alt, renowned hiking expert and author of the new book Get Your Kids Hiking! How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun.
Jeff is an avid hiker. In addition to walking the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, he also walked the 218-mile John Muir Trail with his wife, and trekked across a 50-mile path of Ireland with his wife, young daughter, and extended family. He and his wife emerged from the church doors on their wedding day wearing backpacks, and his son was taken on his first hike at 8 weeks.
Jeff has lots of great advice about how to make sure you and the kids have a great time outdoors. “It’s time to get off the couch and hit the trail with your kids.”
Start’em Young: Ergonomically designed baby carriers make it easy and fun to carry your infant and toddler with you wherever you hike. Walk to your Favorite Park or beach. Bring a friend. Stop often and let your little one explore. Make your hike a routine your kids will look forward to.
Let the Kids Lead! Follow the leader! Hike at your child’s pace and distance. Whatever your child takes interest in, stop and explore that bug, leaf or rock with them. Tell them about the animals, rocks, trees, and flowers. Getting to the destination is less important than making sure your kids have so much fun; they will want to go again and again.
Count Down to the Adventure: Psych the kids up with pictures, videos, and highlights of the places they will go and the things they will see. Use books, magazines, maps, and the Internet, especially park websites and videos showing the spectacular wildlife and locations they will see.
Suit Up in Comfort, Style and the Latest Technology: Take this checklist with you shopping so you get the bases covered:
ü Footwear: Until your kids are walking consistently on their own (birth-3), fit them with a comfortable pair of water resistant shoes. Make sure the three and older kids are wearing light weight trail shoes or boots with a sturdy sole. A Vibram sole with a waterproof breathable liner is preferred. Wear non-cotton, moisture wicking, synthetic or wool socks.
ü Clothing: Dress for the weather! Wear non-cotton synthetic, wool & fleece clothes and dress in layers. Wear multipurpose clothes like pants that zip off into shorts or shirts with role up sleeves. Pack a waterproof breathable rain parka. Dress for the season with fleece hat & gloves or a hat with a wide brim for sun protection.
ü Packs: Get age and size appropriate backpacks that fit each hiker comfortably with hydration hose capability.
ü Trekking Poles: Get a pair of adjustable, collapsible poles with an ergonomically designed handle for each person.
ü Fresh, Clean Water: You can get a hydration hose system for your pack or just use bottles. Disinfect wild water using hi-tech portable treatment water systems such as a UV wand or micro-straining filter.
ü Communication: Bring a smart phone so you can take lots of pictures and if there’s connectivity, email to family or upload to your online blog or Facebook page. Carry a GPS unit to keep you located on the trail and for geocaching.
ü Other Must Haves: Pediatrician recommended suntan lotion and bug repellent containing Deet or Picaridin; First aid kit that accommodates the whole group & first aid knowledge to go along with the kit. Bring a compass & map and brush up on how to use them. Learn how to make a shelter to keep you warm and dry. Keep matches and a lighter in a dry place and know how to make a fire to keep warm. Carry a whistle and a signal mirror in case you get lost. Pack a survival knife with a locking blade. Bring a head lamp flashlight, extra batteries, 50 feet of rope or twine, and always have several feet of duct tape for that unexpected repair.
Bring water and food kids love: Hand out needed extra energy and water as needed on the trail. Pack their favorite snacks and bring plenty of water. Stop often for a drink and a snack.
Pack Fun Items: Let young children fill their adventure pack with a bug catcher, magnifying glass, binoculars, a camera, a map and compass, whistle, or flashlight. Let your little adventurer take ownership and pack a few items of his own; even if it’s not hiking related.
Play Games and Bring a Friend: Play I Spy using your surroundings as you walk along. Create your own scavenger hunt in search of animals, plants and views along the way. Make up rhymes and sing songs as you walk. Pack along a plant and animal identification guide for your older child. Let your social butterfly bring a friend, with parental permission. Intrigue your computer savvy child with the high-tech hiking gadgets like GPS, headlamp flashlights and pedometers. Use your GPS and take your kids on a geocaching adventure.
Credit to photographer John Mitchell
Take Advantage of Park Activities and Guided Nature Experiences: Utilize and enjoy the amazing services and resources offered by our parks, trail and recreational system and associations. This will help ensure that the experience is enjoyable, memorable and even life-changing.
Get Your Kids Hiking:
How to Start Them Young and Keep It Fun!
By Jeff Alt
Trade Paper 5” x 7.5”
Beaufort Books publishers, New York
More information is available at www.JeffAlt.com
About the Author
Jeff Alt is a travelling speaker and hiking expert who provides seminars in collaboration with the Shenandoah National Park staff, and Appalachian Trail Shows in and around National Parks. Alt has walked the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail, the 218-mile John Muir Trail with his wife, and he carried his 21-month old daughter on a family trek across Ireland. Alt has been hiking with his kids since they were infants. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). His hiking advice has been featured in numerous publications and media, including Scholastic Parent & Child, The Boston Globe, National Geographic Adventure, DiscoveryChannel.com, ESPN, Hallmark Channel, National Public Radio, and more. Alt is a speech language pathologist and lives with his wife and two children in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In addition to Get Your Kids Hiking, Alt’s other books include A Walk For Sunshine, A 2,160
Mile Expedition for Charity on the Appalachian Trail, A Hike For Mike, and Four Boots
One Journey (ebook).
What People Are Saying
LA Times – June 4, 2013
“Jeff Alt, hiking expert, has written what may be the most comprehensive, readable and inspiring book ever focused on getting kids hiking. This will be…invaluable for families — and for outdoor programs and environmental educators as well.”
— Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” and “The Nature Principle.”
“With great ideas for making hiking safe, fun and exciting for every age, Get Your Kids Hiking gives families a fresh step in the right direction to a lifelong love of the great outdoors. This is great information organized in an easy-to-access manner. What a great tool for connecting kids and nature.”
—Lynn Brunelle, author of “Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids’ Guide,” “Pop Bottle Science,” and a four-time Emmy Award-winning writer for “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
“…Excellent tips from an experienced hiker on how to…[hike with] even the tiniest babies…Written for the novice and seasoned hiker in mind.”
“…Get Your Kids Hiking…offers an easy to use guide for any adult wanting to take children into the outdoors. The chapters are easy to read and to reference. There are great tips on how to make the trail fun and safe for all ages. More than ever, it is important to expose our children to the benefits of the wilderness and Jeff Alt’s guidance in this book will allow you to confidently take kids into the backcountry.”
–Jennifer Pharr Davis, author of Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail and Called Again: Love and Triumph on the Appalachian Trail.
“…I loved Jeff Alt’s forthcoming book, “Get Your Kids Hiking: How to Start Them Young and Keep it Fun!” In the book, the Cincinnati based author offers tips and tricks on age-appropriate ways to include your child in all aspects of a hike, checklists of what to pack for any type of hike and advice for hiking with a special needs child. In short, he presents the Appalachian Trail of books about family travel outdoors…”
–Matt Villano, The Wandering Pod and former travel blog writer for Parents Magazine