Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Who takes the lead on hike with children?

As soon as you hit the trailhead, many kids want to run ahead. You let them bound off, excited by their enthusiasm at discovering nature’s wonders and knowing that they’ll stop along the way to look at something, allowing you to catch up.

Bad idea.

There are too many dangers in the wilds, from rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the trail to missing a turn resulting in them getting lost. It’s all right to allow older teens who’ve done a lot of hiking to take the lead, but preschoolers and elementary age kids simply won’t be alert enough to all of the dangers. Perhaps they can walk a few feet ahead of you, but they should be keeping your pace – not running ahead – and they always should be in your sight. I often find it’s best to walk side by side with my little one. We talk to one another more that way.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.