If you live in or around Prescott and have kids of a certain age, you’ve probably at least thought about taking them hiking. And that “certain age” can be a lot younger than you may think.
With the last of the snow and freezing temperatures safely behind us, there’s no reason not to take your children out with you to imbibe in the pleasures and benefits of exploring our forests, dells, meadows, lakeshores, creek beds and neighborhoods by rambling along a winding trail.
The younger kids start hiking, the more they will see it and other forms of exercise as normal and important parts of daily life. Here are some ways to adapt your family hikes to younger children.
Ages 0-3 — Very young babies will need to be brought along in a front carrier, if you hike with them at all. Most will be able to sit up in a back carrier once they’re 6 months old and weigh about 15 pounds. Once they’re past their first birthday and securely into the toddler phase, you can begin planning short nature walks with them and taking them out of the carrier periodically on longer hikes so they can explore at their own close-up level.
Leave time for plenty of snacks and diaper/potty breaks and you’ll be able to take older toddlers for 2 miles or longer, depending on their ability and the terrain.
Ages 4-7 — These ages love adventures and challenges, so that’s a good way to sell them on hiking. It might be easier if you don’t call it “hiking” — one Saturday you can go on a “forest adventure,” and the next on a “jumping over puddles” challenge. Let the kids lead the way as often as you can, and you don’t need to set goals like “we’re hiking to Spruce Mountain and back.” Let it be all about the journey.
It’s best to not set limits on how long they can hike, but it’s better to stick to routes under 5 miles or so.