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|March 19-25, 2008
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You can introduce kids to nature hikes with a few helpful tips
by Pete Zimowsky
Kids love the outdoors. They love being outside. You’ve just got to give them a chance to enjoy nature, dirt and all that stuff. So here are some tips for hiking with youngsters:
— Keep toddlers in kids’ backpacks or push them in carriers built for trails. That keeps them from doing too many face plants.
— Let the toddler out of the carrier to walk the trail, feel boulders, look at bugs and explore things under close supervision.
— Keep the hike short and do more nature watching and investigation than hiking. Climbing small boulders may take up the entire hike, but it will be the most memorable part of the outing.
— Take every opportunity to teach the child something, indirectly, like the importance of wildlife after you see an animal track; why water is so important if you see a puddle in a natural bowl on a rock; why plants are important when you see bunchgrass or sagebrush; or why we shouldn’t litter when you see a plastic water bottle or plastic bag.
— Remember to smell. Smell things like sagebrush, wetlands and tree bark.
— Taking a trash bag along will make the youngsters feel helpful.
— Take plenty of water. Kids like to drink from hydration packs.
— Give the kids who can walk on their own strict orders to walk, stay on the trail and stay close.
— Let the youngsters carry their own packs with water and snacks.
— Take enough clothing for layering for both of you. Early spring can be cold. Remember mittens and a hat.
— Scratches and bruises are always a possibility. It’s easy to carry a first-aid kit.
— Hiking doesn’t have to be a major production. Kids will enjoy hiking trails in city parks, along the Greenbelt and in the lower Foothills.
— Back off on your lofty goals. A short 100-yard hike may do the trick before everyone wants to go home.
— Pick an easy trail. Kids love to explore.
— Pick a place where you know restrooms are available.
— Don’t worry about hiking boots until they are older. Kids can get by with good-quality sneakers.
— Above all else, stress safety and staying close. Give kids a whistle on their packs with strict orders not to blow it unless they are lost or need to get your attention.
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