Friday, October 1, 2010

5 Tips for Hiking with Kids

Tip # 1: Start out small!
It is important to know what your child is capable of. If your child is one that will not want to walk far, make sure you choose a short path. Most parks here in the Fort Lauderdale area have shorter trails that would be more manageable for small children. You can gradually choose longer paths as your child begins to get used to hiking. 

Tip #2: Give them something to do.  For younger children this may be something as simple as counting trees. For older children you can print out a few pictures of native plants, trees or birds so that they can treat the hike like a treasure hunt. National Parks, State Parks and County Park websites usually have lists of the Flora and Fauna that are available in the parks so you can make sure to choose pictures that the children will be able to find.

Tip #3: Put a Positive Ending on the Outing.  Add a picnic to the outing. Even if it is just some cookies on a blanket it will make for the perfect positive reinforcement for walking along in the woods. Parks like Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Fern Forest Park in Margate, FL provide parking close enough that it is easy to return to the car for picnic items after enjoying the woods.

Tip #4: Be prepared for mosquito's and weather.  It is especially important to keep Safety in mind. South Florida mosquito’s can carry diseases so be sure to bring the bug repellent and wear protective clothing. Long lightweight pants and long sleeves will help to keep the pesky critters from making a meal of the family. Wear layers so these protective layers can be peeled off later. Some parks even post a “Mosquito Report” at trail heads, so you can call ahead. The best time to avoid the mosquitoes is winter time.  
Remember children dehydrate faster than adults do and they are far less likely to mention they are thirsty or hot. Be sure to put the sunscreen, hats, and water bottles to good use and remind the kids to take a drink every now and again. Try to avoid high energy activity in the summertime during the hottest part of the day between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm.

Tip #5: Make hiking a rewarding experience.  Make sure to follow your hike with something the kids will enjoy.  A little picnic with some favorite snacks on a blanket, or a swim in the ocean will give the children something to look forward to and reason to finish the trail.  Many Local South Florida parks like Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale and John U Lloyd Beach Park in Dania Beach are on the beach and have nearby parking so it would be easy to return to pick up swim gear and a picnic basket.  With a little planning hiking with the family can be very rewarding and lots of fun for all. So get out there and hike South Florida!

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